On March 01, our A-level drama group performed in front of an examiner with this astonishing play, ‘Kinder Transport’ written by Diane Samuels. Set in a completely different time where Germany was at the peak of declaring its huge Nazi presence officially, a little Jewish girl is preparing to be sent to England by her parents. The play consisted of five fixed female roles and one male cameo role. Kinder Transport was initially written to show the connection between past, present and future.
My part in the play, being the only male was a cameo role, which meant that I had to take part in many different roles that were not connected to each other or the ruling line of play [between past, present and future] apart from the Ratcatcher part. Throughout the play we used many different ways of performing our characters and getting to know them such as using objectives so that we can understand what the character was feeling and what he/she wants to achieve in someone else or the audience.
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To help us perform and get the message through to the audience we used a well-known acting system, known as the Stanislanski system. We learnt the characters and lines in three stages; first we learnt our objectives and super objectives. One of the many Stanislanski terms we used was Objectives and Super objectives, which was to put a primary objective to cause a change in the other person. To help us achieve this we used other Stanislanski terms such as emotional memory, for example when one of my characters the Nazi Officer enters into a train carriage full of Jews.
To help produce the feeling that a Nazi would get, I imagined that I was walking inside a room filled with pests in it and that I was angry that there was no pest control to exterminate them on my lines, ‘Is there no Councillor in here? ‘ This character was probably the hardest one to perform, as he was the complete opposite of my own character. The second stage was learning how the characters would move and behave to other characters on stage.
To do this we used another Stanislanski term Laban movements, which were the tempo of working actions that our character would use such as the Postman whom used a float movement, as he was very cheerful and happy compared to my other character the Nazi Officer whom used a slash movement to portray his anger and disgust at what was happening in his scene. We also used fixed points to change the way our bodies appeared to the audience, when I played the English Organiser I used a fixed point in my back so that it made me appear older. Another character that used fixed points was Lil, whom made a constant change between old Lil and Younger Lil.
We learnt the process of fixed points by firstly we all positioned our selves in neutral position, then adjusting our bodies slowly in different ways to see which part of our body needed the most adjustment to suite our character. The third stage was to learn the script and understand the ruling ideas of the play write. The ruling idea was the connection of past, present and future with the characters impacts on it. This was shown with Faith, as she cannot change her future until she knows her mothers [Evelyn’s] past of being a Jew.
But the conflict arises as Evelyn can only start a new future in England if she forgets her past in Germany where her own mother rejected her by sending her to England. Even though in the play Faith finds out that her mother is completely different then she though she was, they are actually the same through this perspective. The play write has decided the ruling idea and could not have been changed by the director, but to be worked within. The past, present and future was dramatised simultaneously on stage with the help of lighting effects to flip backwards and forwards between stages to make it clearer to the audience.
The past and present were also shown within the actor’s fixed positions and the way the actors produced them selves through the way they spoke. This was shown with Lil, as she had a young Lil for the past and an older Lil for the future, which added a slit bending in the back and strutting movement to indicate the age difference. Eva had three stages of age difference, two played by one actress and the other by a different actress with an advanced name Evelyn. In addition to this the play write has added numerous cameo roles establishing a clear dramatic convention of multi-role playing.
The change between times and characters proved to be tough as we weren’t able to go off stage to change costume or get use to physical changes due to the stage not being fit to allow off stage changes. The staging of the play was decided to be a multi location acting area due to the two time periods in the play. The stage was set out with three black blocks, which represented past, middle and future. The Ratcatcher was situated in the middle as he spans between two time zones. Our group was situated at the back of the performance seated on blocks to show the convention of moving from actor to character.
This was inspired by Bomound,s system that shows the audience that we are actors, and brings an opposite reaction to what most films and plays create, which is to bring you into the story and believe its real. As we studied this play we became emotionally involved with its context, as it is a very powerful subject, which is very hard to portray in just one play. Even though this play was set 50 years ago, its theme of genocide still exists today and is something that the world has yet to cure. There is also another theme of the relationship between parents and their children.
As we were going through the stages of learning the ruling idea of the play, we were given homework, which asked that if our parents have ever did what their parents did, and said they wouldn’t. This was important in the play as Evelyn was repeating the mistakes Helga made, by pushing her away. Our entire group decided that we needed some background knowledge on what exactly our characters would be feeling with this kind of story, so we all went to watch a documentary inspired on the play, titled, ‘In To The Arms Of Strangers’. This was an amazing documentary, hard to match with the play.
We learnt another theme that the play uses for its ruling idea, memory. Memory was used in the play with Evelyn, whom wanted to forget her past, but her past could only be forgotten once she could face it. The writer of the play, Diane Samuels decided to write this play for many of the themes we used. She was however inspired by someone she knew whom portrayed Faith that dealt with the guilt of survival. It is also indicated that Diane was struck at how her parents passed down so fully to her, which was shown with Helga and Eva. Although this play was based on fictional characters, something like this happened to someone, somewhere.
Keen powers of deduction are not required to figure out that the two parts of the play are really halves of the same story. I leave it to you to discover how Eva relates to Evelyn, and how the quarrels of the present are tied to the upheavals of the past. It's enough to say that Ms. Samuels's subject is identity. What happens, she wants to know, when you deny it? Or when it is denied you?
In that respect, "Kindertransport" and "Broken Glass," Arthur Miller's drama currently playing at the Booth Theater, make provocative bookends. Mr. Miller's play explores the effect of Kristallnacht on a sensitive Jewish housewife in Brooklyn, mysteriously paralyzed from the waist down, and suggests that her husband's willingness to hide his Jewishness has a lot to do with her condition. "Kindertransport" deals with the consequences of repression on Evelyn, a woman who has wrapped herself in a peremptory manner that could be described as a kind of emotional paralysis.
In both plays, the past -- what one character in "Kindertransport" dismisses as "a pile of ashes" and another values as "a background, a context" -- has an unavoidable impact on people who think it's behind them. While Ms. Samuels's writing is not as resonant as Mr. Miller's, it displays a similar seriousness of moral purpose. Since she constructs her play as a carpenter might, nailing scenes into place and sawing off anything that doesn't quite fit, she shares some of Mr. Miller's faults, too.
The director, Abigail Morris, who staged the original London production of "Kindertransport" last year for the Soho Theater Company at the Cockpit, strikes a tone of no-nonsense sobriety, neither inflating nor complicating the fraught material. Ms. Ivey bristles repeatedly, catching herself each time. The quiver in her voice is often enough to indicate the magnitude of the emotions she's holding in check. The performance asks for no sympathy, but earns it nonetheless.
Ms. Ubach, who has the large, sad eyes of a Picasso waif, uses them eloquently to express Eva's fears and longings. Playing her mother, Jane Kaczmarek appears in two equally vivid incarnations: first as an elegant housewife whose velvety presence breathes reassurance, then as a gray and tufted scarecrow who has miraculously survived the camps. Michael Gaston, the only male in the cast, fills a variety of lesser roles efficiently, including the Ratcatcher, the kind of bogeyman who looms large in children's nightmares and threatens to pitch them into the abyss.
John Lee Beatty's attic set, infused with a dusty white light by Don Holder, is almost antiseptically still. It's the perfect image for the well-ordered universe -- every box in its rightful corner, every emotion neatly tucked away -- that "Kindertransport" will turn upside down before the evening is over. Kindertransport By Diane Samuels; directed by Abigail Morris; sets by John Lee Beatty; costumes by Jennifer von Mayrhauser; lighting by Don Holder; original music and sound by Guy Sherman/Aural Fixation; production stage manager, Thom Widmann. Presented by Manhattan Theater Club, Lynne Meadow, artistic director; Barry Grove, managing director; in arrangement with the Soho Theater Company, London. At City Center, Stage I, 131 West 55th Street, Manhattan. Evelyn . . . Dana Ivey Faith . . . Mary Mara Eva . . . Alanna Ubach Helga . . . Jane Kaczmarek Lil . . . Patricia Kilgarriff Ratcatcher . . . Michael GastonContinue reading the main story