By: Yair Baruch
In November of 2011, Beit Terezin’s seminar “History, Music and Memory” produced a cabaret show “Terezin-The Town As If”. The success of the production at the Cameri Theater in Israel engendered an invitation from the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation
(PHRF) for a number of performances in Philadelphia in the Fall of 2012. The article below is written from the personal angle of Yair Baruch
, the producer, and one of the cabaret performers.
After the staging of “Terezin-The Town As If”
in Israel, the members of the Beit Terezin ensemble knew that the show had enormous potential. We knew we wanted to bring the production to important stages in Israel, and abroad. Thanks to Beit Terezin, Oded Breda, and many professionals in Israel and the USA (too numerous to mention), the performance made its American debut in historic Philadelphia. As members of the ensemble, we knew we carried a great responsibility of carrying the message, and supplying the "proof" of these Holocaust victim's experiences. We were not disappointed, and we did not disappoint.
My personal involvement began with the first staging at Beith Haplamach in November and a meaningful visit to Yad Vashem. In April, the production was staged in the famous Cameri Theater. Soon after, we began our preparations for Philadelphia, more than 4 months ahead of the scheduled October performances. I received a typical email from Oded: "The craziness begins...check the group and see if there is a cadre of performers". We repeated the format that was successful at the Cameri; a small team of eight including myself as a performer and trip leader, and a pianist. Lists were created and transferred to the producer in the USA, the wonderful Rachel Lithgow
. No matter how hard we tried to think of every detail beforehand, we still needed to do a lot of improvisation once I arrived in Philadelphia. Because our team was so small, the success of our show depended on our ability to be creative as an ensemble; from costumes, to musical direction, staging, translation, props and lighting. With virtually no budget, we staged 3 performances in 3 different venues, like a Hanukkah miracle, we worked together to make magic. While we were making energetic preparations in Israel, Rachel was preparing a pampering tour of historic Philadelphia for us.
I arrived in the USA four days before the rest of the team. My days were filled with meetings, and feverish production planning with the goal of creating a soft landing for the artists arriving from Israel without any stress or problems. My bias regarding Americans was that they were polite, work according to protocol, and are inflexible with no ability to improvise. I was wrong. In each situation, everywhere we went, our hosts, though polite, were very happy to suggest creative solutions. They were a producer's dream. Rachel and I became "a winning team" reaping success everywhere we went: she by bringing in audiences, approaching VIPs, and I by doing everything necessary to create the best performances.
When the artists landed, the Hilton Homewood Suites in West Philadelphia had special suites prepared for us especially, thanks to Rachel, and her boss, the chair of the PHRF, David Adelman
, who had just recently opened the hotel. We knew that there would be intensive days ahead of us, but we also knew we would enjoy our stay. After two days of rehearsals, with jet lag, we staged the first performance at the Free Library of Philadelphia, the same venue where the PHRF was hosting Beit Terezin's exhibit on toys, games and artwork of the children imprisoned in Terezin. The rest of our trip was calmer, although still hectic, allowed us to enjoy the beautiful city thanks to Rachel, who even invited us to dinner in her home.