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Taste of Hope

July 18, 2016

I have this amazing friend.

She, Sarah, put together an event Saturday night that was so inspiring and so well done, it just left me in awe. It was a play, written by Sarah, adapted from the experiences of real people living through the Holocaust, performed at the Warehouse Artists Lofts on R Street in Sac.

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I went with Jim and Frances. We were all inspired and impressed.

I think the story of this project begins when Sarah came across real-life accounts of women who lived and suffered in the German camps, specifically the experiences of four women–Rebecca, Edith, Trude and Mina. All were born in the early part of the 1900s in different parts of eastern Europe, all were deported to concentration camps in the 1940s; two survived their time in the camps, two did not.

Sarah wrote a fictional play that features these four women. The play shows how the enslaved women bond by sharing stories from their past. In particular, they each share their family experiences of treasured Jewish holidays, most particularly their detailed recipes and preparations for each holiday’s traditional dishes.

We, the audience, eavesdrop on these intimate conversations which are tinged with understandable despair, but also faint optimism. In the first act, the women–dirty, wearing burlap dresses, drab head scarves and “shoes” made of fabric and rope–reminisce about Hanukkah. Each shares her family’s recipe for latkes. While they are gathered center stage, conversing around a very inhospitable-looking wooden structure, we look to the right and see Rebecca’s past kitchen. There we listen in on occasional snippets of conversation between the young Rebecca and her mother, as her mother reveals her family’s secret ingredient for latkes (challah). On the left side of the stage, we see a modern kitchen and listen in on Rebecca’s present-day daughter and granddaughter (with her cell phone in one scene), as they prepare latkes with challah. It is such a clever way to depict the continuum of family and tradition, and thus strength and hope.

Center stage:

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The past kitchen:

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And here’s the best part: at the end of the scene, servers rolled out a cart full of individual servings of latkes–with sour cream and applesauce, made according to Rebecca’s family’s recipe–and passed them down the rows to each audience member! As the women on stage talked about latkes center stage, and prepared latkes in the past and modern kitchens, we could smell the finished product. Between the conversation about latkes, the smell, and then the taste, it was a full sensory experience.

And so it went.

In the second act, they talked about their secrets for matzo ball soup served during Passover, which we also got to taste, and in the final act, they talked about the sweets of Rosh Hashana. We finished off the evening with honey cake and fantastic caramel candies.

How fantastic is that?

There was more.

Sarah also wrote a song called In Memory’s Kitchen, which the entire cast gathered on stage to sing, in a round, while we audience members approached the stage, one-by-one, and placed large stones (found on our chairs as we took our seats initially) on the inhospitable-looking wooden structure, as a memorial ritual to honor those who suffered the horrors of the camps.

It was a very moving experience.

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Above: Singer, food server, modern-day daughter, modern-day granddaughter (Sarah’s daughter), one of the prison camp women, prison guard (Sarah’s husband), Rebecca (Sarah).

Other touches were evocative and haunting, like the music that opened the play, a piece sung by Sarah’s daughter (who’s got a gorgeous voice) and another woman (also a lovely voice). Oh.. and following that lulling lead in, a most brutal scene in which we heard, off stage, a very loud and disturbing rant by a raging prison guard (Sarah’s very nice husband, effective in a terrible role). Then, from behind a screen, came said prison guard rolling a wheelbarrow, with what looked like a dead child in it. Discreet but horrific. That told us that while the play is about hope and resilience, built around women and the sharing of recipes, it is based upon something dead serious and very real. A reminder of part of our collective heinous past.

Wow.

All put together by the good hearted, creative, multi-talented Sarah. And her family, and friends.

Did I mention all proceeds, ALL proceeds, benefited an organization (O Allos Anthropos in Athens) providing food and relief to Syrian refugees? The whole Taste of Hope effort (the play’s been performed numerous times over the past few years) has raised thousands of dollars, over $10,000, for numerous organizations that feed people. .

Wow again.

Should this play come around again, I recommend it. I’m very glad I got to experience it.

 

 

 

 

One Response to “Taste of Hope”

  1. bud ellie johnson Says:

    Hi Kari,

    This production was extremely creative – combing sight, sound and taste – wonderful. thanks for sharing it with me.

    Love, Aunt Ellie


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