“The Holocaust didn’t begin with gas chambers, and it’s not business as usual in America right now. We already know that the path to atrocity can be a process, and that the Holocaust began with dehumanizing propaganda, with discriminatory laws, with roundups and deportations, and with internment. Those things are happening in our country now, and they’re known as some of the stages of genocide first articulated by Genocide Watch in 1996.”
– Dayna Ruttenberg in The Washington Post, June 19, 2019
The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.
America has a problem. Well, America has several problems, but there’s a big one lurking and, ironically enough, he was in Chicago on the opening night of Prop Thtr’s “I Am Going to Die Alone and I Am Not Afraid: A Furious History of the Holocaust.” I won’t name him because, as this play articulates, our names and our acknowledgement give us power.
Franceska Mann. We don’t know everyone’s name in this seventy-minute devised play, but we know hers. Mann was a Polish ballerina who, as a final act of rebellion, led a small revolt against her Nazi captors. We know, too, of a group of prisoners, at least eighty of them, who dug an escape tunnel into the Ponar forest in Lithuania. Their stories inspired parts of this work because memories keep people’s legacies alive even when they are gone.
The ensemble of six (Sarah Giovannetti, Sonia Goldberg, Lyle Sauer, Zoe Savransky, Ariana Silvan-Grau and Isabel Thompson) give voice to those whose stories are largely lost to the age. The stories we receive in bits and pieces from survivors, or broken accounts redacted by the Nazi party, we piecemeal together from archaeological digs decades later. The legacies of 78,000 lives lost, painstakingly documented in the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague. These are stories that need to be told. And here they are.
In a series of short pieces, the ensemble at Prop Thtr has woven a fabric of courage, pain and triumph. In the face of unimaginable pain, they’ve shone a light on the tendency to view human beings as a statistic and not as individuals. They’ve given us stories to hang on to when we’re tired of screaming into the void. When it doesn’t feel possible to push back against the evils of the world, we’re reminded to just keep pushing. And screaming. Because we can never be truly alone in this if we stay among the chorus.
Keep screaming. (Amanda Finn)
Prop Thtr, 3502 North Elston, (773)742-5420, propthtr.org, $15. Through December 6.