In 1933 Nazi Germany, thousands of Jewish performers and musicians faced tough work restrictions, losing their freedom and wages. In response, one group of Jewish artists created the Jewish Kulturbund. Sanctioned by the Nazis, the Kulturbund performed—for Jewish audiences only—symphonies, operas, and plays, all around Germany, from 1933 until the Final Solution in 1941… at which point any Kulturbund artists who had not emigrated or gone into hiding were, like everyone else, sent to the camps.
Today, artists around the world continue to create in similar oppressive conditions: everywhere from China to Russia to Iran to Belarus. Playing for Life: Art Under Tyranny—a project currently being developed by producers Gail Prensky and James Egan—will investigate the personal stories of present-day artists and juxtapose them against interviews with former members of the Kulturbund in a multi-dimensional, transmedia project that will live on both stage and screen.
I was honored to help create the trailer above, in collaboration with Oscar-winning director Mark Harris and a devising ensemble that included director Shirley Serotsky and playwright/performer Renee Calarco, to support their work. With any luck, the final piece will be both cathartic and hopeful. I know for certain that it’s work the world needs.