In the first of a two-part blog series, Maestra Noreen Green provides her reflections on her recent time as artist-in-residence at the Stories from the Violins of Hope Australia premiere.
Notes from the Maestra
What an amazing time. I am so grateful that I was able to spend a month in Australia helping to bring the newly staged version of Stories from the Violins of Hope to life.
I left LA on May 12, arrived in Sydney on May 14, and started rehearsals with the cast and musicians on May 15. That first week was challenging – adjusting to a new day and time zone, learning how to get from my host’s home in the suburbs to Sydney via public transportation for rehearsals (yes, this addicted-to-her-car, born-and-bred Angelino learned to navigate the trains and buses – what a great system they have!), then back to the suburbs to rehearse in the evening for a concert at North Shore Temple Emanuel hosted by the Jewish Arts. My thanks to Judy Campbell, my Aussie contact and dear friend; she, along with her husband, Mark, and their dog, Luka, were the consummate hosts on all levels!
Since the play was a world premiere, there were some anticipated challenges. The musical cues hadn’t been solidified with the script; Moira, the Producer and Director, was not sure how to fit the music with the script. Ben Adler, who was cast as the Principal Violinist, and I discussed the cues prior to the start of rehearsals, but it is not until you are on the stage dealing with blocking and sets and timing that the music can be fully solidified.
Barry French and Ben Adler
On another level, after watching the first rehearsal (of course the actors were still in the process of learning their parts) there was something missing: an emotional level of relatability. Although Moira is Jewish, she doesn’t have an overall reaching knowledge of Judaism and none of the actors were Jewish. Because the play deals with the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel, it was important to fill in the historical context and pathos. I was grateful that Ben, an extraordinary violinist, musician and very involved Jew, was also able to add his thoughts to certain areas of the play before my arrival.
Since I have been involved in Holocaust educational programs and concerts for at least 35 years, involved with the Violins of Hope since 2018, and have worked with the Weinstein family and been to their shop in Tel Aviv, I was able to give first-hand knowledge of the characters that the writers, Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum and Ronda Spinak of The Braid, had so brilliantly brought to life in their script. It was fulfilling to witness how my knowledge and connection to the material allowed the performers to absorb the subtext and thereby add more emotional layers to the script. By the day of the premiere, the depth of the performance had blossomed and I was proud of the work we had done. At each performance, I could see the actors become more and more attuned to the subtleties of the script and add moments of significance that can only happen when you have had time with the material, trust your fellow actors and are in front of an audience. There is nothing like the live theatre, concertgoing experience.
Ben Adler, Laurence Coy, and Barry French
Laurence Coy, Kate Bookillil, Ben Adler, Barry French, and Maestra Green
It has been a privilege to be part of the Violins of Hope story on so many levels. My dream is to have this play tour and for the entire Violins of Hope collection to come to Australia where, interestingly, the highest number per capita of survivors live.
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