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Story of Holocaust survivor reflects global refugee
experience in world premiere of ‘Eight Nights’ at Antaeus
GLENDALE, Calif. (Sept. 26, 2019) — A German Jewish refugee is haunted by her past, but resiliently moves toward the future. Antaeus Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Eight Nights, a story developed in the Antaeus Playwrights Lab that honors the global refugee experience. Written by Jennifer Maisel and directed by Emily Chase, Eight Nights opens at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center in Glendale on Nov. 8, where performances continue through Dec. 16. Low-priced previews begin Oct. 31.
Set during eight different nights of Chanukah over the course of eight decades, Eight Nights tells the story of Holocaust survivor Rebecca Blum, who arrives in America at age 19 to forge a new life. As Rebecca moves through time, the play explores the lives that come and go in her New York apartment, where ghosts of the past both haunt and guide her. Maisel lyrically weaves together heart-aching moments with life-affirming humor to call out the trauma experienced not only by concentration camp survivors, but by African American descendants of slavery, by interned Japanese Americans, and by current victims of war in Africa and the Middle East.
“It was essential to me — seeing the parallels between the Syrian refugee crisis in 2017, when I started writing the play, and the Jewish refugee crisis of the 1930s — that this piece be an exploration of the universality of that experience and its overlap with other communities,” explains Maisel. “It’s about people finding a way to live after surviving loss and trauma, and witnessing how that brings joy to the future.”
According to Antaeus artistic directors Bill Brochtrup and Kitty Swink, “Actors play multiple roles in creating this tapestry of the generations of one indomitable family. Director Emily Chase is a longtime ensemble member and the current director of the Playwrights Lab, where she’s been intimately involved with the development of this play. Her sensitivity and deep understanding of the culture and material made the LAB RESULTS reading last year a highlight of the festival, and we’re elated that she’s on board to helm this beautiful play.”
The role of Rebecca is shared by Zoe Yale (young Rebecca, 1949-1978) and Tessa Auberjonois (older Rebecca, 1988-2016). Also in the cast are Arye Gross as Rebecca’s father, Josh Zuckerman as Rebecca’s American husband; Devin Kawaoka as the Japanese-American boyfriend of Rebecca’s daughter, whose parents were interned during World War II; Christopher Watson as the African American soldier who liberated Rebecca from Dachau; and Karen Malina White as Rebecca’s business partner. Most of the actors also play several additional roles.
Developed in the Antaeus Playwrights Lab, Eight Nights was staged as part of the company’s LAB RESULTS series at the end of 2018 and was a semi-finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. It has been workshopped as part of Playmakers’ and UNC at Chapel Hill’s Process series, Bay Street Theatre’s Title Wave series, at the Gulf Shore New Play Festival and the Berkshire Playwrights Lab, and had readings as part of Playwrights’ Union First Peek series and Moving Arts Seasons Readings. In addition, the play is receiving a unique series of benefit staged readings across the U.S. in 2019: The 8 Nights of Eight Nights series, created in the wake of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, includes readings on eight different nights in eight different cities, including Chicago; New York; Washington, DC; San Francisco. San Diego, Seattle, Mercer Island, WA; and Stowe, Vermont, with proceeds going to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). The benefit series was created by Rachel Leventhal, a long-time collaborator of Maisel’s who had attended the LAB RESULTS reading at Antaeus. “I couldn’t get the play out of my mind,” she says. “I was so struck by the story’s relevance to this moment in history. In the year that has passed since this attack, current events have sadly continued to underscore the importance of remembering the events of the past, to actively work against repeating them.”
Although Antaeus has presented new work in the past, including Native Son which went on to be remounted by Center Theatre Group as part of its Block Party series at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, this is only the second full production of a play developed in the company’s Playwrights Lab; the first, the company’s production of the Lab-developed The Abuelas by Stephanie Alison Walker, opens three weeks earlier, on Oct. 11, and will run through Nov. 25. A rotating performance schedule is set for the weeks during which the two productions overlap. The two plays share similar themes: questions of family, identity, and of the repercussions of a political dictatorship on personal lives.
“These two plays in particular struck us as being ‘Antaeus’ shows, having the kind of epic scope, historical sweep and largeness of theme that is our hallmark,” Brochtrup and Swink said in a previous statement. “Our hope is that, in addition to our reputation for producing the classics, Antaeus will become a place where future classics are created.”
The creative team for Eight Nights includes scenic designer Edward E. Haynes Jr., lighting designer Karyn D. Lawrence, costume designer Alex Jaeger, sound designer Jeff Gardner, properties designer David Saewert, dialect Coach Lauren Lovett, new play dramaturg Paula Cizmar and dramaturg Ryan McRee. The production stage manager is Heather Gonzalez.
Antaeus is an actor-driven theater company that explores and produces timely and timeless works, grounded in its passion for the classics. The company illuminates diverse human experiences through performance, training and outreach. It believes in the transformative power of live theater.
The Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center complements Glendale’s ongoing commitment to integrate vibrant arts space into the fabric of city life, ensuring the arts remain accessible to all. Located just a few blocks away from The Americana at Brand and the remodeled Glendale Central Library as well as the Alex Theatre, the center promises to build upon Glendale’s growing reputation as an arts and entertainment destination. The center includes an 80-seat theater, a reconfigurable 36-seat performance/classroom space, and a theater classics library.
Eight Nights opens on Friday, Nov. 8 and continues through Dec. 16; previews begin Oct. 31. Performances take place on Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m.; check the website for the performance schedule for the three-week period between Nov. 8 and Nov. 25, when performances will run in rotation with The Abuelas. Seating is reserved, with all tickets priced at $35 except preview tickets, which are $15.
The Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center is located at 110 East Broadway, Glendale, CA 91205 (between N. Brand Blvd. and Artsakh Ave.). The first 90 minutes of parking is free, then $2 per hour, in Glendale Marketplace garage located at 120 Artsakh Ave. (between Broadway and Harvard). The theater is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 818-506-1983 or go to www.antaeus.org.
Details for Calendar Listings
World premiere of Eight Nights — The heartfelt, lyrical portrait of a German Jewish refugee haunted by her past, but resiliently moving toward the future, witnessed over the course of generations of the same family that inhabits a single apartment from 1949 to 2016. Set during the eight nights of Chanukah, and spanning eight decades of the protagonist’s life, Jennifer Maisel’s play gracefully weaves together heart-aching moments with dark yet life-affirming humor. Developed in the Antaeus Playwrights Lab.
• Written by Jennifer Maisel
• Directed by Emily Chase
• Starring Tessa Auberjonois, Arye Gross, Devin Kawaoka, Christopher Watson, Karen Malina White, Zoe Yale, Josh Zuckerman
• Presented by Antaeus Theatre Company
Previews: Oct. 31 – Nov. 7
Performances: Nov. 8 – Dec. 16
• Tuesday at 8 p.m.: Nov. 5 ONLY (preview)
• Wednesday at 8 p.m.: Nov. 6 ONLY (preview)
• Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 31 and Nov. 7 ONLY (previews)
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 1 (preview), Nov. 8 (opening), Nov. 22, Nov. 29, Dec. 6, Dec. 13 (dark Nov. 15)
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 2 (preview), Nov. 9, Nov. 23, Nov. 30, Dec. 7, Dec. 14 (dark Nov. 16)
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: Nov. 3 (preview), Nov. 17, Dec. 1, Dec. 8, Dec. 15 (dark Nov, 10, Nov. 24)
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 18, Dec. 2, Dec . 9, Dec. 16 (dark Nov. 11, Nov. 25)
Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205
(between N. Brand Blvd. and Artsakh Ave.)
First 90 minutes free, then $2 per hour in Glendale Marketplace garage located at 120 S. Artsakh Ave. (between Broadway and Harvard)
(818) 506-1983 or www.Antaeus.org
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• All performances (reserved seating): $35
• Previews: $15