This week the Ben Uri Gallery acquired a new addition to their collection, a painting by Solomon Hart, one of the 19th century’s most important British Jews. Entitled The Writing on the Wall, this watercolour is thought to depict the interior of one of the first British synagogues…
Yesterday, Sunday 16 April, marked Charlotte Salomon’s centenary. I find myself imagining what the trajectory of her life – and art – might have been had she survived the Holocaust. Would she have rebuilt her life and perhaps settled in Amsterdam, where her parents had taken refuge during the war, and raised a family with her husband, fellow refugee Alexander Nagler? Would she have gone on to become a well-known artist and perhaps a grandmother and great-grandmother, founding a dynasty of artists? Perhaps she would now be celebrating her centenary. Her stepmother, the renowned mezzo soprano Paula Salomon-Lindberg, lived to celebrate hers, dying at the age of 102 in the year 2000.
Sadly this is idle speculation. The reality is that her achievement by the age of 26 stands as unique and extraordinary: the series of 765 autobiographical gouaches that make up her artwork Life? or Theatre?, which you can see for the first time in full from this October at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam.
The proof of her enduring fascination and the inspiration she continues to provide can be seen from this June in the performances of Charlotte – A Tri-Coloured Play with Music, in Canada and beyond, as its creators told me in the April 2017 issue of Jewish Renaissance.
Details and links to the exhibition of Life? Or Theatre? and performances of Charlotte - A Tricoloured Play with Music are below and I know that this year, and every year, Charlotte Salomon will continue to gain new admirers.
By Judi Herman
An exhibition of Charlotte Salomon’s artwork Life? Or Theatre? will be shown for the first time in full at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, from 25 October to 25 March 2018. www.jck.nl.
Charlotte – A Tri-Coloured Play with Music will be featured in two Canadian Festivals this June. The Human Rights Arts Festival in Kingston, 1 June, and Luminato Festival, Toronto, 16-18 June. Then from 30 June to 2 July at World Stage Design Festival Experimental Theatre in Taipei, Taiwan.
Visit www.theaturtle.com for other upcoming performances.
What links London’s latest hit musical An American in Paris, a revival of Incident in Vichy – an Arthur Miller drama not seen in this country for 50 years – and the centenary of the young German artist Charlotte Salomon, who continues to enchant more than 70 years after she perished in the Holocaust?
The clue is in the titles of the theatre pieces. Arthur Miller's Incident in Vichy concerns the fate of 10 men detained in Vichy, France, at the height of World War II in 1942, when Vichy became notoriously synonymous with the French government of Marshal Pétain that collaborated with the Nazis. An American in Paris, freshly adapted from the much-loved Gershwin movie musical, is reimagined with a story set in the City of Light in 1945, in the immediate aftermath of the war. The heroine is a young Jewish ballerina safely hidden by Parisians, while her parents have disappeared in wartime Provence. And the young German artist Charlotte Salomon, escaping Nazi Germany to take refuge in the South of France, was herself arrested in Villefranche in September 1943 aged just 26 – within a month she had been murdered on arrival in Auschwitz.
Salomon was born 100 years ago this April and in the April edition of Jewish Renaissance, which will reach subscribers just before Passover, I explore the continuing allure of her life and work as expressed in the 765 autobiographical series of gouaches that make up her Life? Or Theatre?, in the company of the co-creators of a new play with music telling her story "in three dimensions".
I have just had the good fortune to marvel at the glorious evocation of the newly-liberated City of Light in American in Paris – a show that adds depth to the light-as-air story of the much-loved film musical without losing any of its charm and vitality, thanks to a fresh plot with Jewish protagonists at its heart. Find out more in my American in Paris review.
My most recent review is of an extraordinarily well-cast and tightly-directed revival of Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy. The production successfully ratchets up the tension of Miller’s 90-minute morality play examining the different responses and fates of those 10 men picked off the streets of Vichy by a Nazi regime intent on rounding up Jews for deportation. It continues at London's Finborough Theatre until Saturday 22 April.
By Judi Herman
Next month Sadeh Farm in Kent is set to open its gates. This may not seem like news in itself, but Sadeh (field in Hebrew) is a unique kind of farm: a Jewish farm. Founded by Talia Chain and co, who have already begun work in the grounds of Skeet Hill House, Sadeh aims to reconnect people with their faiths and each other by working together on the land to grow vegetables. "Here Jewish people of all ages and backgrounds can connect with our rich tradition of Jewish farming and be inspired by a religion based in agriculture," they promise in their mission statement. While the group are almost set up, they still need financial help to acquire polytunnels, sheds, tools, marketing and legal help and more. Visit their Chuffed crowd-funding page for more info and to donate.
By Danielle Goldstein
The Jewish Vegetarian Society has launched a crowdfunding campaign to open the UK’s first vegan and vegetarian community centre at its headquarters in Finchley Road this autumn.
Vegetarians, non-vegetarians and people of all faiths and none will all be able to enjoy the eco-friendly centre’s open-plan hall, community garden and demonstration kitchen where a number of cookery classes will take place. Other events planned include film screenings, workshops and talks.
Having first started in 1966 by a group of plucky Jewish vegetarians, the JVS has been going strong ever since. JVS director Lara Smallman said: “This is a very exciting time for the JVS as we embark upon a new chapter. We are delighted to be creating a home for vegetarianism and environmentalism.”
By Danielle Goldstein
Donate to JVS via tinyurl.com/newjvscentre and see an architect’s drawing of the proposed layout below:
This month BBC Radio has joined in the celebrations of Arthur Miller’s centenary (he was born 17 October 1915) with a terrific season of dramas and documentaries exploring his life and work on Radio 3, 4 and 4 Extra – including the broadcast world premiere of The Hook, which had its world premiere on the stage earlier this year, as reported in Jewish Renaissance. Read on for all the necessary details, and if you miss/have missed any of the programmes, they will be available on BBC iPlayer for a month after broadcast.
Coming up this Saturday 17 October on Radio 4…
2.30-4.15pm Unmade Movies: Arthur Miller's The Hook The world broadcast premiere of Arthur Miller's unproduced screenplay tells the story of a 1950s Brooklyn longshoreman who is fired for standing up to his corrupt union boss, but decides to fight back by standing for union president.
8-9pm Archive on 4: Attention Must Be Paid – Arthur Miller's Centenary "Attention must be paid to such a person," says Linda of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman'. Miller himself spent his long life paying close attention to the society and times in lived in. He scrutinised the American Dream in 'Salesman', in 'The Crucible' revealed its hysteria and in 'All My Sons' its corruption. One hundred years, to the day, after the birth of Arthur Miller his biographer, Christopher Bigsby, mines the BBC's and his own archives, tracing the life and work of this towering American figure. There are contributions from Dustin Hoffman, Warren Mitchell and Brian Dennehy, who all played Willy Loman, and Ying Ruocheng, who played the role in Beijing. Henry Goodman speaks about working on his late play, 'Broken Glass'. We hear from Harold Pinter, Nicholas Hytner and John Malkovich. And there is previously unbroadcast material from Miller's brother and sister, and his wife, the photographer, Inge Morath.
Still available to catch up on…
The Essay: Staging Arthur Miller on Radio 3 To mark the centenary of Arthur Miller's birth (17th October 1915), in five 15-minute programmes on Radio 3, playwrights, directors and an actor, reflect on what his work means to them and describe their personal connection with the playwright and his work. They are first broadcast from Monday to Friday 12 to 16 October at 10.45pm
The Life and Times of Arthur Miller on Radio 4 Four 45-minute biographical dramas broadcast in Radio 4’s Afternoon Drama slot from 12 to 15 October
Fame on Radio 4 Extra three short stories by Miller under the title ‘Fame’ on Radio 4 Extra
Arthur Miller: The Accidental Musical Collector on Radio 4 Extra Playwright Arthur Miller taped Blues and spiritual songs of North Carolina's poor in 1941. With Christopher Bigsby. From February 2005.
Playing the Salesman on Radio 4 Extra Christopher Bigsby analyses the role of Willy Loman, the central character in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Contributors include Dustin Hoffman, Warren Mitchell, Brian Dennehy and Alun Armstrong, all of whom have played the role.
By Judi Herman