Aug 3, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 229: Julia Pascal
photograph by Habie Schwarz
Hometown: I was born and brought up in Manchester and Blackpool in the north of England but at 14 I moved to London where I have lived ever since.
Current Town: London
Q: Tell me about Dybbuk.
PASCAL THEATRE COMPANY’s innovative take on THE DYBBUK was supported by the British Council on a tour to Poland in l993. (Tim Butchard was the British Council supporting Officer), It went to Bialystok and Radom and was extremely well-received.
The production has been seen in France, Germany, Sweden and Belgium as well as enjoying a British tour. It has received rave press and is now invited to be part of the first theatre festival at the Manhattan theatre The Theater for the New City in August 2010.
We would like to have British Council support and can offer educational workshops around the production,
The play was written and directed by NESTA Dream Time Fellow Julia Pascal.
It was choreographed and designed by Thomas Kampe.
The production which has five performers, uses text, movement and music in a homage to a culture that was annihilated by the Nazis. It is a major work of English theatre which has been part of Pascal’s creation of an English Jewish body of work seen in the l990s and 2000s and published by Oberon Books.
A British woman goes to Germany today and finds it full of wandering souls or dybbuks.
She imagines a ghetto in 1942 where five Jews are assembled for deportation. One of them remembers the story of The Dybbuk . She makes the others re-enact fragments of this famous legend. This work poses the question about why we keep on telling our stories even on the eve of destruction.
The play premiered at the New End Theatre in 1992. It toured in the UK and in continental Europe over a decade and is invited to the Theater for the New City in August 2010 for its professional US premiere.
Q: What else are you up to?
A: I have just written a new play about a London woman who goes to the Brooklyn Bridge to jump off it and another about Mossad. I need to get them read and produced now.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: I was brought up by my Romanian grandparents in Manchester. They brought with them an atmosphere of many cultures and spoke several languages. Although I was born in England, I never felt 'English' and this alienation made me always an observer. I was never a religious Jew and embraced atheism at twelve. My Jewishness made me connect to other outsiders. I became fascinated by the lost souls that vanished in Hitler's Europe and learned of the Holocaust as a young child. This had a profound effect on my writing.
I was also a balletomane and dance has had a strong effect on my writing and the way I see work expressed.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Give women equality.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Bertold Brecht, Vsevelod Meyerhold, Joan Littlewood, Hilde Holger. Kantor and Grotowski are also major influences.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Work that is Poor Theatre and rich in ideas.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write what you know and then go much deeper. Talk to people especially people with extraordinary lives. Listen to your grandparents and get them to talk about their own.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: THE DYBBUK by Julia Pascal. US premiere at Theater for The New City, 155 First Avenue (10th Street. East Village. August 10-25 2010. Telephone 212 254 1109. www.dreamupfstival.org www.pascal-theatre.com