Hanna's Treasure Box
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Martha J. Smith
September 20, 2012
What is your job on this show?
When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
As a young child living on a farm, I often would pretend that I was a performing artist. I would create elaborate scenarios with my dolls and toys and act them out. I began my stage career as an opera singer in the U.S. and have also been an actress in off-Broadway. I continue performing frequently as a singer in concert. The first theater I wrote was a musical. This was taken on tour in the Mid-west in the USA by an amateur theater group. Currently, my husband and I have a non-profit organization through which we present theater, opera and concerts throughout Europe with productions related to the Holocaust. Through the support of Intl. Voice of Justice, our non-profit, Hanna's Treasure Box was premiered in France last summer and now will have its US premiere through United Solo. As the playwright, I will be enjoying the wonderful artistry of French actress, Ardoine Clauzel as Hanna. I was born and raised in Ohio and received a Master of Music in oera studies from Ohio State University, I have since been awarded a doctorate from Columbia University and have completed post graduate studies in the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. I have studied play writing, acting and directing at HB Studios in New York City.
If this is your first appearance in United Solo -- why did you want to be part of this festival?
This is the first time one of my works has been in the United Solo Festival. I heard about their festival from the Dramatists Center in Minnesota. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to present "Hanna" to the American public. As a writer, I have found the solo play form to be fascinating and challenging. When I conceived of "Hannna's Treasure Box" I felt that the story would led itself to a mono-drama. There is a consistency offered by a solo play which can be captivating for the audience, when presented by a talented performer. I, myself, will not be performing in the play as "Hanna" but as a musician. "Hanna" will be performed French actress, Ardoine Clauzel, who has been a frequent presence in the prestigious Avignon Theater Festival.
In your own words, what do you think this show is about? What will audiences take away with them after seeing it?
Hanna's Treasure Box is the story of a Sephardic Jewish family who settled on an Island in the north of Norway. The family has hidden their ancestry for centuries, but are warned by the dreams of their little daughter to flee Nazi-occupied Norway for neutral Sweden. Through the lives of Hanna's family a thread is drawn, presenting the evils of anti-Semitism in Europe from the time of the Inquisition to the present attacks on Jews in Europe. The French actress, Ardoine Clauzel,who also made the French adaptation of the play contributed greatly to its present form, along with Julia Pevzner, internationally reknowned director, who has been involved with previous IVOJ productions. The idea of the piece is based on the lives of friends who grew up on the island of Heloy in the north of Norway who look Semitic and who trace their lineage back to Spain. When this play was presented in France, it was surprising to see the genuine enthusiasm of the audience. Even the little chiloren sat still and seemed spell-bound as they watched. People who saw it last summer in France have continued to talk enthusiastically about the play .
Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
I would say that because of the surprise ending of the play - "surprising" is the best word to sum up the show. There is suspense, as well.
Who are your heroes?
I greatly admire the resistance workers who saved Jewish lives during World War II. I think that selflessness is a quality to be admired. They had nothing to gain by their activities and everything to lose, but they knew that what they did was "the right thing to do" and they did it. They are unbeatable role models for this generation. Theater has served as a great catalyst for change in society over the centuries. Beaumarchais's play, "Le Marriage de Figaro" which confronted the hypocracies of the aristocracy led to the French revolution and started a movement leading to the downfall of totalitarian governments across europe. I personally believe that theater can change public opinion and that is why we have established "International Voice of Justice" our non-profit, whose mission is: Holocaust Education through music and the arts in Europe to create tolerance and fight anti-Semitism. America has been flooded with films and theater educating about the Holocaust and Jewish suffering during the war. It has resulted in a much more tolerant climate for Jewish people to live in than is currently present in Europe. If I had 10 million dollars I would use it to present theatrical and musical productions geared to fight anti-Semitism in Europe. Most Americans are not aware that across Europe synagogues have been set on fire, Jews have been physically attacked, Jewish children in Norwegian schools are harrassed and attacked physically. This is the real impetus behind why I wrote "Hanna's Treasure Box". Seeing all these things going on over here, I felt it was necessary to "do" something. Theater and music is what I "do" so I made it my weapon to fight in whatever way I could against this continuing evil in European society. We have produced "Fidelio: A Holocaust Memorial Opera' in five cities of Poland and received top reviews. We have produced Holocaust Memorial concerts across Europe. And "Hanna" was presented in France last summer, now will be in the USA! We hope that getting this message out can open people's eyes to the importance of tolerance and standing against Europe's historically consistent anti-Semitic stance.