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Performing the Jewish Archive Internationally: Reconstructions of a Musical Revue from the Terezín/Theresienstadt Ghetto in Australia and South Africa

Tue, December 18, 2:30 to 4:00pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Amphitheater

Session Submission Type: Panel Session

Abstract

The three papers in this panel examine the musical revue Prinz Bettliegend (Prince Bedridden), originally written by Czech-Jewish prisoners in the World War II Jewish Ghetto at Terezín/Theresienstadt, and two separate reconstructions that took place in Sydney, Australia and in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Prinz Bettliegend was recreated under the auspices of a project called Performing the Jewish Archive (PtJA) which staged five performance festivals around the globe, including Australian and South African festivals in the summer of 2017. Although both reconstructions were based on the same materials preserved from the ghetto and on roughly the same plot outline, they diverged dramatically due to the different approaches taken by the development teams in each country and the present-day concerns of the artists involved.
In Lisa Peschel’s paper she describes the PtJA project, the history of the original Terezín production and the preliminary process of reconstruction: how did a plot outline emerge from combining survivor memories, clues in the song lyrics and our knowledge of events in the ghetto? and what ethical questions were posed by the comic mood of the original piece? In the paper by Ian Maxwell, co-creator and director of the production at the University of Sydney, he explores the accidents of casting that led us to explore the Jewish leaders’ protection of youth in Terezín, and the intense political and affective charge behind the prisoners’ memories of the pre-war Prague theatre that inspired Prinz Bettliegend. In the paper by Amelda Brand, co-creator and director of the production at the University of Stellenbosch, she describes the challenges of re-imagining Prinz Bettliegend with a young multi-racial cast in present-day South Africa and the productive tensions emerged between the voyage of self-discovery, as the students explored parallels with their own political and social environment, and the ethical limits defined by the obligation to represent the historical events of the ghetto.

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