The Star

25 Mar

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Having done a touring show of a Holocaust piece before, I’d already been through the creepy-real feel of being surrounded by Nazi uniforms, in a barbed-wire concentration camp.  But I had played a Christian “protector” (therefore, a political enemy), not a person of Jewish descent.

…Those uniforms. Very, very pristine copies, rented from a company who let them out to film costume departments, so that the authenticity of the weight of the material, and all the patches and insignia were exact…was a hell of a thing to be on stage with.  I can’t even imagine having to be one of the actors having to put them on.

…Put it this way: there was very little “acting” involved while being screamed at in German, surrounded by these uniforms and barking dogs and people weeping to the right and left of me.  The awesome realization that this was 6 million people’s reality, 70 years ago, hits an entirely new level when your senses are slammed into it, knowing that this terror you actually, ACTUALLY feel is NOTHING compared to what they lived with every single day.

…And the HATE for those pieces of cloth.  That one patch I would stare at through that one scene, on the arm just resting on a desk…a pen in the hand, writing out my fate in ink for all of time.  The actual metal skull pin of the S.S.  The meaning behind it, and the audacity and total disgust of seeing a human wearing it with pride and purpose as an achievement in rank and standing. 

…And the Swastika.  Black spider on white, backed in blood red. 

…Close up.

…Close enough to see the stitches, hand-sewn to the arm bands and tacked to place.  Hand-sewn like they would have been hand-sewn.  Only then it was by a prideful wife, or mother, or sweetheart.  Now it was by a team of seamstresses in a costume department. 

And what must it have felt like to them, to do it? 

It is impossible to be even in the presence of the thing and not feel the distinct darkness of evil come off it.

…And what if one of those seamstresses was Jewish?

…Or one of the actors who had to wear it?

These are things you don’t really think about with intense detail, until you’re playing a scene with a person you’ve rehearsed with for a month, whom you trust and respect as a friend, and who you now can very easily look at with such loathing hatred…draped in this disgust…for all that what they are wearing means, and how well they do their jobs in being totally sick bastards toward you.

Props and costumes have POWER. Especially when they’ve history behind them.

…And this is the truth.

Tonight, for photos, I stood as the costumer affixed a beat up, well-used, yellow Star of David onto my sweater…just here…over my heart.

Not to assume that in any way I am sharing equal pains with the spirits who came before me, who have worn it, but tonight…I think it was the first time that the power of it hit me. The power of that star. The word “Jude” inked upon it.

Because I was wearing it now.

Above my left breast.

As she would have.

As millions of them did.

…A marking of a people. A religion. A death sentence. Something people looked at and knew as a branding, every day, on the streets, in the shops. Something that was so much a part of day-to-day life, that people became accustomed to it. As if it was nothing. As if it was no more than the patch of a favorite sports team, walking down the street. Which is outrageous to me. But what other possible explanation could there be? And then the mixed emotion of pride as well as shame of being of the blood and religion to be told to wear it. It is your faith…so how can one shun it and be true to oneself? Yet it is a mark of distrust and segregation and politics and abuse. How does one live with the balance of both loving and hating it?

…On every piece of clothing.

…Staring at you from every mirror.

…Every reflection of yourself in a window.

…Marked to indicate where you can and cannot go…

…Whom you may and may not marry…

…Be friends with…

…Do business with…

…Speak with…

…Every single day.

After getting the Director’s approval, I slipped off stage, and beat it to the front lobby, to get a breather for a bit. Because putting on that yellow piece of cloth had such an immediate tie with me.

A bond.

I could feel it.

A costume piece, is all it is meant for. But it isn’t. And it won’t ever be.

…Sometimes you undertake a thing that means more than you can quite grasp or put into words. It’s haunting. It’s vital. It’s physical. It is tangible. Even if it is only an ” emotional feeling.”

I took a breather in the ladies suite, and just stared at the mirror. For quite a while. I don’t know how long.

…And all I could really come up with, that sorted out into anything at all, was what a horrible honor it was to wear it. This star. And tell this story.

…For Anne and all the others.

…Surrounding an audience with a feeling they will never get from just reading about it in a book.

They may think they know these people already. Their names, their reputations…they even know how the story ends. But what they won’t be prepared for is that now, they will have heard their voices…know what their laugh sounds like. They’ll watch the jealousies build, and the fights erupt in full force, and witness total seized terror as boots march by, a bomber drops it’s payload overhead…a machine gun sounds…or children can be heard in the distance, playing in the street, while a little girl, wearing no shoes, speaking no words, sits in total silence. Listening. Because her life and everyone elses depends on it.

…The audience will live through all of this. In the same room as us. Live. Now. With no escaping it.

…And without even realizing it, that same audience will become our friends and allies, and will get angered and hurt for us, and pick sides, and find favorites,and will soon find themselves rooting for an ending alteration that can’t be fixed or changed, any more than the history that it came from.

…And when that realization actually hits…it will destroy their emotions, from seemingly out of nowhere.

Not because of “slight of hand,” or any kind of “manipulation.”

Because of Truth.

History.

Horror.

Theatre is an awesome thing.

A constant teacher. And a humanitarian.

…I just (for the 1,000th time) was reminded of it.

Thought I’d pass it on.

~D

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One Response to “The Star”

  1. prewitt1970 March 25, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    I dude ply touched that you have the inner strength to do such a role and I’m sure that your depth of character and talent more than do it justice, it makes my stomach hurt just thinking of it. I have to say with the deepest respect, it’s a show I will never attend for the anger and sadness that such an event in human history even occurred sickens me to no end. Thank you for doing its memory justices.
    Sincerely
    Benjamin

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