THE MESSENGER Opens Next Week at Palm Beach Dramaworks

 The Messenger opens on December 8 and runs through December 24, with specially priced previews on December 6 and 7.

By: Nov. 29, 2023
THE MESSENGER Opens Next Week at Palm Beach Dramaworks

Hungarian Holocaust survivor Georgia Gabor (1930-1994) is the inspiration for The Messenger, a world premiere play by Palm Beach Dramaworks Resident Playwright Jenny Connell Davis. A meditation on the connections between past, present, and future, the play interweaves Gabor’s story with that of a young Asian American woman facing racial discrimination in this country in 2020. The Messenger opens on December 8 and runs through December 24, with specially priced previews on December 6 and 7 (7:30pm). Producing Artistic Director William Hayes directs.

Hayes commissioned Davis to write the piece after learning about Georgia from her daughter, Roberta Golub, and subsequently reading her autobiography and watching a 1984 interview in which she spoke about her experiences during the Holocaust. The remarkable Georgia survived by her wits, managing to elude capture and concentration camps. She came to the United States in 1948 and, after raising a family, began teaching in 1969. She taught math for 21 years in the San Marino Unified School District in California, and often spoke to her students about what she witnessed and went through during the Holocaust. Sometime after the publication of her autobiography in 1981, swastikas and other anti-Semitic obscenities began turning up in her classroom and elsewhere at Huntington Middle School. This campaign of bigotry and harassment continued for years, and though Gabor repeatedly notified school administrators, no one stepped in to try to put an end to it. Things got so bad that she walked away from teaching in 1990.       

Davis was hesitant but curious when Hayes first suggested that Georgia’s story had the makings of a play. Once she watched the interview with Gabor, she was hooked. But she had to find a way into the material. Ultimately, she wrote a piece that is both a cri de coeur – “Never forget” – and a warning. The play moves back and forth in time as it explores the destructive power of hate across generations and the consequences of remaining silent.     

“I believe this is the most important play we’ve ever produced at PBD,” said Hayes. “The number of hate crimes reported last year was the highest since the FBI began collecting data in 1991. Every minority group was affected, whether we’re talking about race, religion, or sexual orientation. It’s frightening, it’s reprehensible, and it’s unacceptable. Georgia Gabor understood scapegoating all too well, and was insistent that we acknowledge the agony of any group persecuted for being ‘other.’ It was her mission to share her story with as many people as she could reach, and she believed that each of us has a responsibility to call out hate wherever we see it. By remaining silent, we are complicit.”

The Messenger is a four-character play; Georgia is the only one based on a real person, and the only one with a name. The other three women are identified by the years their stories take place: 1969, 1993, and 2020. Although they spring from the imagination of Davis, their stories are inspired by actual events. The play was nurtured by The Dramaworkshop, PBD's lab for developing new plays, and was featured during the 2023 New Year/New Plays Festival (now the Perlberg Festival of New Plays). 

This world premiere production features Margery Lowe as Georgia Gabor, Gracie Winchester as 1969, Angela Gulner (PBD debut) as 1993, and Annie Fang (PBD debut) as 2020. Scenic design is by Anne Mundell, PBD’s newly minted resident scenic designer; video design is by Adam J. Thompson (PBD debut); costume design is by Brian O’Keefe; lighting design is by Kirk Bookman; and sound design is by Roger Arnold. Jessica Chen is the assistant director.    

Mrs. Roberta Golub is the executive producer of The Messenger.

Jenny Connell Davis is a playwright from Maine, who lives in Austin, TX. Recent plays include Matinicus: A Lighthouse Play (a true story about Maine heroine Abigail Burgess); As I See It, about the relationship between painter Alice Neel and poet Frank O’Hara; and Anton Chekhov Is A Tasty Snack, a comedy about the tragedy of theatre and the people who love it. Jenny is an affiliated artist with the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, a member of The Gift Theatre in Chicago, and in-house writer for the award-winning Baobab Studios, where she helps develop television, film, and book projects. Her plays have been developed or produced nationwide, including at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference, Chance Theatre, ACT (Seattle), Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Shrewd Productions, and Asolo Rep. As a screenwriter, Jenny has sold projects to Sony, Disney/Fox, Amazon, and Iconoclast/Anonymous Content. She has been a finalist and semi-finalist for the Nicholl Fellowship, and her short films have screened worldwide, including at Toronto and SXSW. Jenny trained as an actor at Steppenwolf, and in playwriting at UT Austin.