Friday, October 24, 2008

Menachem Begin Figures in a New Theater Presentation

'Good acting always hurts'

Keren Tsur feels freedom, genuine freedom. She is liberated, freed from being pretty, in the role of Anda in Hillel Mittelpunkt's new play.

...Anda, the fictional heroine of Mittelpunkt's play, is a survivor of Bloc 10 in Auschwitz, which was part of the Nazi experimentation with mass sterilization by injecting poison into the ovaries. She wants to testify at the Eichmann trial, which is underway when the play's action takes place. She wants to tell the world about the crimes done to her. But the Ben-Gurion-controlled political establishment disqualifies her from testifying.

Anda had been a member of Herut for a few months and protested outside the Knesset against the reparations from Germany in a demonstration organized by Menachem Begin. Secondly, she was from Hungary. Some people sought to limit the number of witnesses from there because of the Kastner trial several years earlier. So 110 witnesses testified at the Eichmann trial, and Anda was not among them.

Anda powers the plot of the play that bears her name, which depicts a judicial system that capitulates to the intervention of the political branch, which draws comparisons between then and now. No wonder the play is sparking public debate in the media. There was heated debate at the play's premiere.

Tsur says that even on stage she sensed the opposition: "I felt the vibes of opposition from the politicians in the auditorium. They weren't interested in the personal human story, in which a Holocaust survivor leaves the country with a slam of the door, but only in what is being said about them, what they did or did not do. That is what the play is about actually."

How do you prepare for such a powerful role? Tsur: "I read this moving play and realized that for me it would be the closing of a circle, and that it was the role of a lifetime. Four years ago, I started interviewing my grandmother, Yona Weinberger, a Holocaust survivor, who is now 91, who was born in Hungary, was in Auschwitz and was taken from there to work in an airplane factory in a village in Germany. I videotaped her over a period of months; every session started with a protest on her part - why is this necessary? The video I recorded became part of my preparation for the role.

"I also read books, including "Judgment in Jerusalem" (Yisrael Bemishpat) by Pnina Lahav, "The State of Israel Vs. Adolf Eichmann" by Hanna Yablonka and "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil" by Hannah Arendt. There is also a lot of material to be found on the Internet. Of course, Anda is a figment of Hillel's imagination, but that's his job as a playwright, he must tell the human story without which it is impossible to put on the play. These things took place; there was intervention. Mapai was the state, and the state was Mapai."

Do you think a playwright is obligated to the historical truth?

"As I see it, the basis of the historical truth must be there, but a performance or a play is not a documentary film."
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