Performances run April 19–22.


Because You Never Asked is a dreamlike realm where historical fact meets auto-fictional storytelling in a multilayered, intergenerational experience. Based on discussions between composer Roger White and his grandmother, Marianna Clark (née Goldmann), about her experiences fleeing Nazi Germany and arriving in the UK as a refugee, the piece combines texts mined from diaries and letters that Marianna wrote in her late teens and early 20s with the recordings of her speaking in her 90s. The story unfolds simultaneously on two different timelines, merging past and present, to explore how memories are constructed and reconstructed over time. Because You Never Asked is an archive of complex family history: one that is innocently painful, naïvely complex, and beautifully tragic.

Woven into haunting soundscapes, recordings of White's grandmother's stories are at the heart of the Because You Never Asked-hearing her life experience in her own words creates a raw, natural experience that can provide personal insight into the complexity of living through times of war and displacement. The show's choreographic language is based on events from Marianna's life. Helen Simard's choreographic process involved generating movement sourced from images drawn from Marianna's family stories, memories, and archive. Because You Never Asked explores ancestral memory and how it is stored and expressed through the body, creating a world where movement embodies the kinds of memories that are so nuanced they cannot be reduced to words.

Marianna Clark (née Goldmann) grew up near Hamburg, Germany, with a Jewish father and a Christian mother. After the passing of the Nuremberg laws in 1935, her parents' marriage was deemed illegal and their citizenship revoked; the family left Germany in 1939, fleeing to the UK as refugees. In recent years, Marianna started sharing stories with her grandson Roger White of what it was like to live under the Nazi regime and the life that she left behind. White recorded her telling these stories, and also discovered her diaries and hundreds of letters written between her and her family, which shine a light on what day-to-day life was like before and during WW2. It is these stories of a young woman's experience of leaving her homeland and forging a new identity that provide the basis of the show.

Because You Never Asked is born of a family archive, one that was kept hidden for almost 80 years. To illustrate this, historical artifacts from Marianna Clark's archives, such as passports, photos, diary entries, Nazi documents, and letters between family members and friends, will be displayed in the MAI café-bar. This will further immerse audiences in the fragments of her memories. Among these artifacts will be never-before-seen historical photos of Hans Liepelt, a member of the White Rose Movement and childhood best friend of Marianna.

These historical artifacts will be available for viewing in the MAI café-bar before each performance. Presented in the MAI gallery, the performance has been cleverly crafted to incorporate the space's four pillars, intentionally obstructing selected views at precise moments. The aim is to accentuate the permeable and fleeting nature of memory. By deliberately denying viewers a full and constant perspective, Roger White offers the audience a glimpse into his process of reconstructing his family's stories. With the audience seated on both sides of the gallery, each seat offers a different sound and visual perspective. In this manner, the audience is fully immersed in the way memory operates, where some aspects are heightened and others forgotten.

"I want to obscure the audience's viewpoint, so that people are not able to see everything and so that the viewing experience is different depending on where you are seated. When you start looking into your family's history, you're never going to see everything. I spent ten years trying to learn everything and what I did learn is that it is impossible. Two people could read the same letter, and come away with completely different meanings from it, different interpretations. So as a spectator, no matter where you sit in the room, you'll see the show differently than your fellow spectator." - Roger White

A talkback with the artists will follow the performance on April 20, 2023.


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