Holocaust Survivor Finds Her Voice in FROM SILENCE at Theater for the New City Tonight

By: Nov. 04, 2016
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.

Existing user? Just click login.

A cast of nine women led by Karen Lynn Gorney bring to life a story of the generational effects of the Holocaust in "From Silence," a new play by Anne Marilyn Lucas. It is widely acknowledged that even as Holocaust survivors are passing on, their trauma lives on in their children and grand children. This play explores how such trauma is inherited even without being spoken of, seemingly as a genetic or behavioral legacy. The piece then illustrates that speaking out, processing and understanding can bring healing to families. This world premiere will be presented by Theater for the New City from tonight, November 4, through November 20, directed by Peter Zachari.

"From Silence" is the fictional story of a rigid buT Loving grandmother named Esther Gold, who has preserved her mental balance by keeping her wartime experiences secret. She finds her safe world turned upside down when her daughter rushes home with the news that their synagogue is on lock down in response to a terrorist threat. Esther's granddaughter, Elaina, is being held inside. During the endless waiting, Esther travels back in her mind seeing the results of her decision to remain silent about the Holocaust and its effect on her family. She re-experiences her years in Ravensbrück, Hitler's concentration camp for women. She also re-lives the many times her daughter and granddaughter begged her to speak about her wartime experiences. Ultimately, the situation shakes her out of her fear of sharing her past. She realizes it is her duty to speak out, but will it be too late for Elaina to hear?

Esther is played by Karen Lynn Gorney, who made her name as the co-star of the 1977 movie "Saturday Night Fever" and as a regular on ABC's "All My Children."

The play was initially inspired by the book "Say the Name: a Survivor's Tale in Prose and Poetry" by Judith Sherman (2005, UNM Press). The book's narrative is peppered with poems by Sherman and is illustrated by secret drawings by imprisoned women of Ravensbrück, bravely witnessing the terror of the camp and daring God to answer for it.

Playwright Lucas met novelist Sherman, her daughter and grand-daughter at Harvard in 2010 at a program connected to the book. Lucas, an actor, director and prolific author of biographical plays and musicals, was impelled to adapt the book to the stage, and did so with the cooperation of Ms. Sherman. A play, "Say the Name," was staged in 2013 at Harvard and used as a text in the University's Divinity School. Ms. Lucas's friendship with Ms. Sherman and her family is the inspiration for this new play, "From Silence."

In "From Silence," Esther is not as closely modeled on Judith Sherman, but is a composite of survivors. The elderly protagonist is played by three women to illustrate the war in her mind. Her 11 year old child wants her to speak about her experience and her 40 year old alter-ego forbids her. She tells her daughter, "It is not a picture of me I want you to have." In flashback sequences we see Esther's memories. The force motivating her changes from simply to survive--as it did in Ravensbrück--to a commitment to "tikkun olom," or repair of the world through speaking out. Among the characters in her memories of Ravensbrück are fictional fellow prisoners and an actual historical figure, Erika Buchmann, who was imprisoned there as a political dissident from 1939-45. Buchmann saved the lives of many Jewish women in her barracks and was active after the war in creating a Holocaust museum at Ravensbrück and the National Memorial in Berlin

Playwright Anne Marilyn Lucas has always been interested in the phenomenon of matriarchal lineage and how women stand on the shoulders of women who came before them. Another of her full-length plays, "Recovery," deals with analogous themes. It is a drama of mothers and daughters at a drug rehabilitation center who are lost in the pain of addiction. All are influenced and guided by a Reverend Stephanie Jackson and a Demon (embodying all temptation) who battle for their souls. Denial is portrayed is a powerful tool in the weaponry of darkness and facing truth is portrayed as a painful path but the only one that leads to lasting recovery.

Anne Marilyn Lucas is returning to NYC, the place of her creative origins, with this production of "From Silence." A New York actress until she moved to Marblehead, MA to raise a family, she writes that she is very grateful to Crystal Field and Theater for the New City for this opportunity to get back. Lucas is on the Board of Trustees of Marblehead Little Theatre and is Director of Theatrical Productions at The House of The Seven Gables in Salem, MA. She has written and directed a succession of plays and created biographical revues of classic Broadway composers with her own contemporary librettos. She was initially trained at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London and The Royal College of Music and studied voice at Cleveland Institute of Music. Subsequently, she earned an MFA at Boston University in Theatre Education (with emphasis on directing) and an MFA in Creative Writing (writing for stage and screen) from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She was a professor in the theater department of Salem State University for ten years. She has a long list of acting and directing credits at such Massachusetts theaters as House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Salem Theatre Company and Griffin Theatre in Salem. She and her family are members of Temple Emanu-El Marblehead, which is headed by Rabbi David Meyer, a frequent commentator on NPR. Her father in law, Norman D. Cohen, was President of the American wing of the Weitzman Institute of Science in Israel until his death.

Director Peter Zachari has been a sounding board for Anne Lucas's plays for quite a few years, beginning when he and Lucas were teaching theater together at Salem State University in MA. Now a Queens-based director/playwright, he was quite impressed with "From Silence" and encouraged Lucas to bring this play to production in New York at Theater for the New City, where he has directed his own plays "Parker & Dizzy's Fabulous Journey to the End of the Rainbow," "One Love," "Under the Knife: A Farce," and "Fat Asses: The Musical." For several years, Mr. Zachari taught Acting and Directing for the Department of Theatre at Salem State University. He received his MFA from the University of Florida and his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Salem State. He writes, "I am ever grateful to Crystal Field and TNC for providing an artistic home for playwrights premiering new works. In the past four years she has enabled me to premiere four of them."

Karen Lynn Gorney (Esther) is best known as the romantic co-star of the film "Saturday Night Fever" (rejecting John Travolta after winning a dance contest with him) and as TAra Martin on ABC's "All My Children." She got ripped apart by a giant wolf in the film, "Late Phases" (2014). She appeared in Peter Zachari's productions of "Parker & Dizzy's Fabulous Journey to the End of the Rainbow," "Under the Knife: a Farce" and "The 3rd Gender." She is a member the Irish Rep Company and a company and founding member of the Frog and Peach Shakespeare Company, with whom she most recently played Eleanor of Aquitaine in "King John" at the West End Theatre. (www.karenlynngorney.com)

The actors are Nora Falk, Lori Funk, Jessica Gollin, Karen Lynn Gorney, Shannon Harrington, Audrey Heffernan, Dina Laura, Tori Murray and Krystal Rowley. Set and costume design are by Wilberth Gonzalez. Lighting design is by Alexander Bartenieff. Sound design is by Douglas Maxwell.

November 4 to 20, 2016
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street)
Presented by Theater for the New City
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM
$18 general admission, $12 seniors/students, Group sales $10.
Box office (212) 254-1109, www.theaterforthenewcity.net.
Group sales contact: Alex Santullo, 212-475-0108
Runs :90 without intermission. Critics are invited on or after Nov. 5. Opens Nov. 5.

Photo Credit: Remy S.


To post a comment, you must register and login.