By Teresa Eyring
TCG Executive Director
Because its nature of bringing people together and, having therefore, a political character,
theatre has been proven an especially apt medium to feed collective memories.
—Juan Mayorga, playwright, writing for Holocaust Theatre Catalogue
In October, the National Jewish Theater Foundation/ National Jewish Theatre launched a new website, the Holocaust Theatre Catalogue (htc.miami.edu), with over 550 entries of plays written since 1933, about or related in some way to the Holocaust. Addressing the absence of any such comprehensive resource, the archive also came about in part because we are losing the last of the survivors of the Holocaust—and with them go their first-hand accounts of that horrific time in our history.
The archive’s catalogue provides an opportunity for resident theatres to read and produce these plays and engage survivors in community dialogue about their experiences. In addition, the catalogue, which has an advisory board of scholars and theatre leaders (on which I am privileged to sit), aims to strengthen the idea that theatres and other community institutions can combine their resources to create stronger community awareness around pressing topics, current and historical.
The archive is open to the listing of any and all plays dealing with the Holocaust, and information on how to obtain the script is available on the site. “It is our sincere hope that the utilization of these select theatre works in education and production will inspire all to keep alive the lessons of the Holocaust and provide an artistically driven moral compass for future generations,” says the website’s introduction.
There are also specific suggestions for national impact. On Holocaust Remembrance Day in April, the hope is that theatres around the country will select one of these plays for a production or a staged reading, and that there will be a wide local and national discussion about the lessons of the Holocaust, involving audiences, scholars and survivors.
Our theatre movement stands at a unique place in time, where the work on our TCG (Theatre Communications Group) theatres’ stages is more intentionally reflecting social and historical realities, and where the possibility is stronger than ever of nuanced and powerful conversations taking place among audiences and artists. Longtime practitioners may feel that has always been the case—but as people become exponentially inundated with technology, time spent in the presence of a live, handmade art form becomes more special and very difficult to replicate in other media. Theatre has the capacity to bring sense and meaning to individual lives and shared histories. There’s nothing like it.
American Theatre Magazine November 2014