I Am Going To Die Alone, and I Am Not Afraid: A Furious History of the Holocaust, Prop Thtr’s newest devised play, crafts tales of the Holocaust with scenes, songs, and lectures. The Ensemble, directed by Anna Gelman, weaves these stories in and out of each other toward an inevitable collision. Some sections of this vignette-style performance are stronger than others, but the overarching consistency is found in the community on stage. The Ensemble reminds us that there is power in togetherness. When misused, that power is distorted and destructive. When cared, for that power is revolutionary.
The Ensemble (Sarah Giovannetti, Sonia Goldberg, Lyle Sauer, Zoe Savransky, Ariana Silvan-Grau, and Isabel Thompson) are each clad in an army green jumpsuit, with belts of varying styles. They march into the theatre with their combat boots pounding against the floor. Nyssa Lowenstein, Associate Director and Costume Coordinator, has made a unit of The Ensemble, and they are ready for battle. The dark earthiness of their apparel contrasts with the pieces of white linen and cotton clothing hung above by scenic designer Alyssa Mohn. Lighting design by Stephan Brün isolates the performers with cold hand-held flashlights for moments of intense specificity, and warms the group with a glowing amber when together.
Throughout the evening, performers use chalk to draw out homes, camps, families, and fences. The world outside is constructed on this two-dimensional surface where it can be washed away or distorted, but it will always leave a residue. This is an incredibly creative theatrical device that speaks to the production’s plea for remembrance. The Ensemble at one point forms a resistance; the group drops to their hands and knees and get to work on their master plan. At one point, a mother portrayed by Ariana Silvan-Grau meets her son from the other side of an electric fence. This fence is created with fabric, and breaks away from the two-dimensional language that had been previously established, which muddles an otherwise moving moment between mother and child.
One of the first narrative threads constructed by The Ensemble is a vaudevillian performance where larger-than-life Jewish heroes beat the crap out of Hitler. Hitler here is played by Zoe Savransky, a performer who has misplaced her mustache — but two black-painted fingernails will do. The whole act is hilarious, with a vintage style of performance that taps into a culturally pervasive sense of nostalgia. As the production moves forward, we revisit this clownish production and the whole thing sickens. Jewish heroes disappear and the raucous cheering is dulled. Finally, it’s just Hitler. Zoe Savransky slinks onto the stage in heeled tap shoes and performs a tragic yet entertaining lip-synced rendition of Judy Garland’s “I Don’t Care.”
The Ensemble utilizes diverse musical genres to emphasize the energy of whichever story is being told. Musical theatre, pop, and punk each make an appearance to punctuate a point. Music director and composer Alec Phan’s love songs and anthems are performed with intensity and accompanied by an electric guitar. Zemirot, however, is the only music style to cross over into each tale. Zemirot are Jewish hymns, often sung in Hebrew around the dinner table. When the Jewish rebels are having a hidden Passover Seder in the woods, it is their uninhibited Zemirot that makes them known.
Another grounding piece often revisited is a lecturer who takes it upon herself to teach the tactics of the Nazi Party. Sarah Giovannetti uses educational tools to breakdown important topics like “propaganda” and “dictatorship.” This piece is of primary importance because it connects everything on stage to the world outside the theatre. It paints, in no uncertain terms, the specific moments when a society either comes together or tears itself apart. Prop Thtr gives a platform to a community of creators who came together and shared stories. I Am Going To Die Alone, and I Am Not Afraid is a lesson in remembrance — and remembrance is a collective practice.
Zoe Benditt, Dramaturg
Stefan Brün, Lighting Designer
Adelina Feldman-Schultz, Casting Director
Morgan Hunter, Sound Designer
Nyssa Lowenstein, Associate Director/ Costume Coordinator
Alyssa Mohn, Scenic Designer
Alec Phan, Music Director/ Composer
Becca Sebree, Stage Manager
Zach Weinberg, Associate Producer
Photographer: Anna Gelman