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The Dybbuk Featured In TNC's Dream Up Festival 8/8-9/5

Of the 25 plays to be presented in Theater for the New City's upcoming "Dream Up Festival" August 8 to September 5 (, one in particular indicates the expansion of TNC into the international arena. That is "The Dybbuk," written and directed by Julia Pascal (London), with movement and set design by Thomas Kampe (Germany). The piece, performed by an English cast, will have its American debut in the festival, performing ten times between August 10 and August 25 (see schedule above).

A Dybbuk is the soul of someone who has died too early. Julia Pascal's "The Dybbuk" is inspired by Solomon Anski's great Yiddish classic. Pascal's Dybbuk starts in Germany where Judith, a British atheist Jew, looks at today's Germany and feels that Hitler has won. Judith is haunted by thoughts of her lost family and this leads her in to a dream world haunted by ghosts, or dybbuks.

She imagines a ghetto somewhere in Eastern Europe where five non-religious Jews live their final day before transportation to Auschwitz. In this ghetto, the five Jews argue, discuss Kabbalah, love, sex and death, relate fragments of their lives, play out half remembered scenes from the myth of The Dybbuk (which inspired Anski) and dream of full bellies.

The actual Dybbuk myth is encapsulated in a play world which the Jews walk in and out of, where finally the possession of the young girl's body by the spirit of her dead lover, is evoked in a four minute Expressionist dance. The work poses the question about why we keep on telling our stories even on the eve of destruction. It has five performers and uses text, movement and music in a homage to a culture that was annihilated by the Nazis.

Thomas Kampe (choreographer/designer) has a profound personal connection to this story, as his father was a member of the Nazi party. He has been a long time collaborator of Julia Pascal. Their continued work together is a defiance of the twisted ideas and a rebuke of the evil events that pervaded their childhoods.

"The Dybbuk" premiered in London at the New End Theatre, Hampstead in July 1992, then the Lillian Bayliss Theatre. Since 1992 it has played in Munich at the festival of Jewish Theatre, at Maubege's InterNational Theatre Festival, in Poland (British Council tour), Sweden, Belgium and a major British regional tour. "The Dybbuk" is published by Oberon books in "The Holocaust Trilogy," three plays by Pascal.

The actors of the TNC production, all English, will be Juliet Dante, Stefan Karsberg, Adi Lerer, Simeon Perlin and Anna Savva. Theater for the New City has joined with this talented group of artists to share a creation from the other side of the Atlantic.

Julia Pascal ( was born in Manchester. As a teenager she went to E15 Acting School and worked as an actor for four years. Her career was at the Traverse Theatre, the Royal Court, Nottingham Playhouse, the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue as well as acting in TV, film and radio. Realizing she wished to move from acting to directing, she decided to read English at London University (Bedford College). After her graduation she became the first woman to direct at the National Theatre with her adaptation of Dorothy Parker's writings, "Men Seldom Make Passes." This ran as a successful Platform Performance for two years. She was also a National Theatre company member.

Following this debut she was invited to be Associate Director at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. There she directed plays by Bertolt Brecht, Alfonso Vallejo, Howard Barker and Fay Weldon before forming Pascal Theatre Company to stage New Writing. She has run this Company since 1983, focusing on writers on the margins of society. These included Seamus Finnegan, Karim Alrawi, Carole Rumens, Melanie Phillips, Yana Stajno. At the same time she worked as a freelance writer for The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times and as a broadcaster for BBC Arts programs. During the 80s and early 90s, she was Dance Editor for the magazine City Limits. During this period, she was asked to be part of a collection of memoirs for Virago's "Truth, Dare or Promise," edited by Liz Heron. Her essay "Prima Ballerina Assoluta" was included here and also in Boxtree's publication "Memoirs of a Jewish Childhood."

Her research and interviewing techniques married with her stage work inspired her to write her own stage plays. This new phase in her career started in the mid eighties with "Far Above Rubies," which explored the effects of Judaism and Islam on women's lives. It premiered at the Drill Hall. By the l990s she was embarking on new texts and productions which were later to culminate in "The Holocaust Trilogy."

"Theresa" explored the collaboration of the Channel Island governments with the Nazis during World War Two. This play was banned in Guernsey. It toured the UK, France and Germany. Pascal adapted it for the radio in l996 after it won an Alfred Bradley Prize. Adapted from the stage for the radio, as "The Road to Paradise," it was broadcast in 1996 and 1997 and was nominated for the Sony Prize.

Her stage productions "Theresa," "The Dybbuk" (inspired by S. Anski's original), and "A Dead Woman on Holiday" were produced in London and on the European mainland over two decades. Moving from Europe to the US, "The Yiddish Queen Lear" followed after she studied the importance of Yiddish theatre and film on mainstream US culture. This opened at Southwark Playhouse and starred the Warsaw Ghetto survivor Ruth Posner; a main player in her ensemble.

The Tricycle Theatre commissioned her first play about Israel, "Crossing Jerusalem," which was staged there in 2003 and later produced in Thomas Huber's German translation in 2003 in Karlsruhe's Staatsteater and nominated for the 2007 Theatertreffen. In Paris it had a public rehearsed reading in a French translation by Alain Franck at the Théatre du Rond Point.

In 2008 Pascal returned to the classics. This time with an exploration of T"he Merchant of Venice" premiered at The Arcola Theatre and published as "The Shylock Play." This take was to stage the play, with all its difficulties, as witnessed by a Holocaust survivor, performed by Ruth Posner.

As well producing a body of original texts which have formed a bedrock of Jewish cultural experience on the English stage, Pascal has adapted Charlotte Bronte's novel "Villette" which was produced at the British Library in 2000 as "Charlotte Bronte Goes To Europe." This was a development of her interest in Bronte whose "Jane Eyre" she dramatised for BBC Television as "Charlotte & Jane." The production won BAFTA and Royal Television Society Prizes.

In 2006 she won a prestigious NESTA Dreamtime Fellowship which took her to ex-Yugoslavia, Lithuania and Latvia for research. In 2007 she was Writer in Residence at the Wiener Library supported by a Leverhulme Grant. She has also had grants from The Arts Council, the Lisa Ullman Travelling Scholarship, the Goethe Institute and the Oppenheimer John-Dowes funds.

Educational work has included being Writer in Residence at the University of York in 2003 and currently she teaches writing at New York University and St Lawrence Universities' London campuses.

For Pascal Theatre Company she produced a collection of 50 film interviews funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund called "Mothers & Daughters - A Jewish Film Archive." This is regularly screened to activate debate. It is housed in the Imperial War Museum, the British Library, London Metropolitan Archives, The Jewish Museum, London Jewish Cultural Centre and The Victoria and Albert Museum/Theatre Museum collections.

In 2009 two of her latest plays, "Broken English" and "Woman On The Bridge" had rehearsed readings at the Drill Hall and will be produced in 2010/2011.

From August 8 to September 5, 2010, Theater for the New City (TNC), under the direction of Crystal Field, Artistic Director, will present its first "Dream Up Festival," a theater festival of plays from artists across the country and abroad. It is curated by the theater's Literary Manager, Michael Scott-Price.

"Dream Up" is an all-premiere festival with 23 world premieres and two American premieres, offering a month long anthology of wide-ranging and original theatrical visions.

The Festival opens up Theater for the New City to artists from the country at large and to artists from overseas. Both Ms. Field and Mr. Scott-Price feel it is especially important for the world to know of these artists, whose work needs to be done and needs to be seen. These include emerging writers, whose work will likely become an important contribution to American culture and which is already stimulating and enlightening. There are also mid-career artists whose work is already of great importance and should be viewed by the public, even in a time of declining donations to the arts, when grants not being awarded due to market conditions and there are arts funding cuts on almost every level all across the country and abroad.

For an alphabetical listing of the plays to be presented, go to:

For a day-by-day schedule of productions, please see:

Captioned, high-resolution photos of shows in this festival are available for download at:

John Peter
The Sunday Times
June 28, 1992
it has a raw and unforced reality that is grief-stricken as well as proud. To be possessed by those you have lost, Pascal is saying, is a demonic experience in the Greek sense; terrible but also joyful. The ending tries the impossible: to choreograph the Holocaust to the sounds of Mozart's Lachrymose. But, by then in any case, Pascal has made her point -- that to survive is to be haunted. One of the cast is German, as if to prove that myth, like history, makes no exceptions.

Lyn Gardner
The Independent
July 9, 1992
Julia Pascal has transformed Hasidic myth into an urgent play for today -- a timeless drama that reaches back into the rituals of the past and looks forward into the ashes of the 20th century. Pascal's simple, cleverly designed and movingly acted production throws naturalism and expressionism, dance, music and dialogue into the melting pot and comes up with something distinctly and refreshingly un-British. Purists will no doubt argue that Anski's original has been subsumed, but this is genuinely creative work which boasts a final sequence that is as spine-tingling as anything you'll see in the theatre this year.

Michael Grosvenor Myer.
Plays & Players. November 1994
Pascal's techniques of versatile props and set and intense physicality combine to provide a near-unbearable atmosphere of tension and suffering and some truly amazing effects. The ballet of the dead man's spirit entering and dominating the young girl is one of the most remarkable pieces of theatre I have ever seen.

David Nathan
The Jewish Chronicle
June 25 1992
A powerful piece of Holocaust Drama. Pascal directs her super cast in a work which takes on mythic dimensions.

Nick Curtis,
Time Out (London)
.... A viscerally potent drama of love, grief and death ending in an unforgettable danse macabre.

Eva Benjamin
The Stage and Television Today
October 27, 1994
Pascal further tugs at our heartstrings with the harrowing climax of the selection process of one to the right, and one to the left, spelling death for the weakest -- all done with a crescendo of vibrant music and loud volley shots. The talent of the cast, in their multifarious roles has to be recognized in this brilliant presentation

I wanted to revisit a great classic of Russian Jewish theater but to look at it with a modern perspective. The play was a reaction to my several visits to Germany. There I felt the absence of my generation who should have been born but weren't because their parents had been murdered in the Holocaust. As a result of this I felt that there were many ghosts or dybbuks in the air of Germany and Europe. The idea came to start with a monologue by a British Jew who visits Germany and is sensitive to the presence of these unborn souls. She dreams she is in a ghetto with five secular Jews who are forced to await deportation. One of them, remembers the tale of the dybbuk (formalized by S. Anski in the famous playtext) and makes the others act out parts of the narrative. They have nothing and so are performing in an extremely poor theater style. Added to which they have no desire to 'play' the story and there is resistance. They want to dream of eating or to remember the lives they led before they were rounded-up and exiled.

The play premiered in 1992 at the New End Theatre where it formed the third in the Holocaust Trilogy. I collaborated with German choreographer Thomas Kampe who designed and created movement. As research we looked at the 1938 Polish Yiddish film of "The Dybbuk," which was Expressionist and which used the mysticism present in Kabbalah in a cinematic way. A man walked through a wall; a woman danced with the skeleton of her dead fiancée.

Our set was the black ghetto walls. On the floor were buckets, palettes and blankets. The only food that was eaten was a potato. A central stage motif was five ladders . They were used inventively and allowed us to create a world which was harsh and also magical. For example a ladder is a path way through a forest and then it becomes a train track which also had an association for the Auschwitz rails. Ladders were placed on an actor's back as he became the religious student communing with the spiritual world making him into a crazy birdman figure. Pieces of string from the surrounding debris were picked up by one actor and put around his ears to indicate the Chassidic Jewish tradition associated with Kabbalah. We wanted to synthesize theater performance with the magic of Kabbalah and evoke the mystical world common to all cultural heritages: dream; fantasy and escape.

The actors were from different countries. They did not have to be Jews but they did have to have a sense of "other." We were keen to employ performers with more than one European language. Our ensemble were French, German, Swedish, Greek, Italian, and the text had moments of translation into their language to show the multilingual lives of many European Jews pre-1945.

Although the play ends with the Holocaust, the final moments are an epiphany of resistance. The five actors walk through a corridor of light, falling and rising in a procession of death and rebirth so that the central message of the play is You can kill a people but you can never kill a culture. Indeed the fact that Thomas Kampe and I worked as children of enemies was also an act of resistance for us and shows that theatre can celebrate the importance of learning even when we know we are on the verge of extinction.

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