Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"To keep the light, of our legacy of hope, burning"

Scott from Young Co. writes about his experiences working on the Voices From The Holocaust project:

“Holla amigos! By the way if you guys don't already know by now, I'm not too good with the whole blogging shindig, so please bear with me. Well...where to begin. When Neil first mentioned this project to the Young Company I knew I had to become a part of it. Now that might sound a bit big headed, but hear me out first. The topic of the Holocaust was and still is a very important subject to me, personally, and I wanted to use the knowledge I already had to educate the young people about the past. That was my mission. Help them remember those that perished and why we should never allow the Holocaust to be repeated.

So many things have happened over the course of the project, and it's been a very moving experience. So many things actually I'm going to struggle to put everything on this here lovely blog. Over the performances, ranging from secondary schools to the City Chambers, from the Glasgow Film Theatre to the wonderful Citizens Theatre itself, I took many notes on what was going on at these locations. Instead of giving you a long list of bullet-pointed data, I'm going to give you my version of the events, the human version. The very thing which we were performing in the piece; the personal stories of the past.

Like many of my fellow Company members, I auditioned for a place on the project, but knowing only four of us could get positions placed a justified sense of nervousness on me. I can't remember how many exactly auditioned but it was well more than four. Neil than dropped the bombshell when interviewing after: I would have to cut my hair really short. Now if any of you fine people came to see ''Lend Me Your Ears'', you may have seen yours truly sporting a rather full head of curly hair. The prospect of this happening was always there, I knew that and was prepared to do it. Nevertheless when the time came I didn't enjoy it. A necessary sacrifice I told myself. The resulting project members that were selected were myself, Jack, Rehanna and Keren. I offer my condolences to my fellow members who auditioned, but I'll be honest I was glad I got a place. I mean this was a chance to represent the Citizens Theatre, around the city and a chance for me to really educate by doing something I loved.....That kind of opportunity doesn't come round often.

Work began full-on in early January, we all met up before Christmas and discussed the details of the project with Neil and Louise. It was at this point we were issued our 'homework'. Over the Christmas period we were each to research testimonies from Holocaust survivors, more specifically survivors from Auschwitz. I moaned non-stop about the temperature of the room, it was freezing. I'm talking Arctic temperatures here. Funnily enough it was these cold work rooms that allowed me to focus into the work, helped me get into these people's shoes. That was the first step towards building a character, in my mind at least, the cold. Returning after Christmas and we had all brought lots of material to work with. The play was supposed to be twenty minutes long, so we had to cut certain stories. This felt kind of disrespectful as not all these stories were being told, but I'm afraid that for the purposes of the piece it had to be done. The first readings of the pieces were, really quite disheartening. Although stories of survival and hope, I couldn't help feel down beat. Progress was rife however. We had selected the pieces which sounded the most interesting to us, in a performance sense, by the first day and by day two we already had a rugged running order. I remember feeling really good about the progress. Within the fourth day we had begun putting movements to the pieces and by the end of the week we had a complete play, with a slight story arc involving stories from before the war begun to the liberation of the camps.

The week beginning the schools’ tour and we were all quite perky, really up for the task ahead, but over the course the week I found myself more and more drained by the experience. I was nervous about showing to school children, as I knew what their responses would be. I too would have done it as a child, the nervous laughter and so on. Contrary to my beliefs all the schools we went to had magnificent responses to the piece and I have to admit that the questions and comments they made during the Q and A surprised me. Some questions genuinely challenged us. We did our best to answer them, but in my opinion I believe we had done our job by showing them the piece to begin with. It got them thinking. Even when we left the school, I believe the piece stayed with them. Asking themselves questions as well as their peers, and that was one of our goals. We had many different venues and audience sizes so our performance was never the same twice, which kept our energy levels up. This was until the end of each day were I, personally, found myself falling asleep once I got home. I remember once sleeping for twelve hours when I arrived. I wasn't the only one, we were all feeling the strain. By the end of the tour week, we were exhausted. It was all I could do to wake up at the weekend.

It was dawn. Sunday. I got up extra early. It was the day of the Glasgow Film Theatre performance. I was not so much nervous at performing at this point but at finding the actual building. I'm not joking here, I couldn't find it. I eventually found it when backtracking. I was the first one there. The place was quiet, apart from a few people in the bar, where I decided to have a drink of juice while waiting for the others. I sat in the bar of the GFT and the realisation of what was happening hit me; I was in a theatre group who was not only representing the Citizens but the people of the Holocaust. The survivors and those that didn't. I had a slight moment of panic and rushed into the toilet. I was breathing heavily as I splashed my face with water. I knew it was a big responsibility but then I realised it was also a great honour. To give the people of the Holocaust, the ''little people'', the people who didn't get recognised by the mass media, a voice. A chance to be heard. To not be forgotten. This calmed me as I went back to the bar. Later on the rest of the cast and crew arrived and we prepared for the performance. More and more arrived into the theatre as we had our own personal warm-ups. The audience sat and so did we. We all watched the short film made by Shawlands Academy. It moved me, very deeply. So much so I didn't move the entire showing. Nobody did. It ended and there was a deep respect as we were introduced onto the performance area. In my lines in the piece, I was on the brink of tears. The short film had moved me so greatly. We finished the piece and sat on our chairs ready for the audience's comments. The comments made by the people in the audience were very touching. One person, who we later found out to be an actual Holocaust survivor, said our piece was the thing that he could most relate to out of all the films, plays and shows he'd seen. As you can guess, this humbled us to the point of silence. I remember having my jaw dropped in reverence to this man's comment. A great compliment, which I didn't know how to thank. Myself, Rehanna, Keren and Jack were stunned by it. It was at this point we met Seth, the film director who filmed, directed and edited the short film from Shawlands Academy. He expressed his deep congratulations to us and his deep desire to film our piece. I was interested in the prospect but doubted it due to false promises in the past. Long story, and I won't go there. The day ended with farewells to friends and family, as we knew we still had two more performances left.

Tuesday. The day of the City Chambers and Citizens Theatre performances. Another grand day of reverence and respect to the Holocaust. We performed with microphones, which was strange, but I'll be honest I felt a little empowered by it. This meant however greater diction was demanded from us, as our booming voices would be heard but our words would be missed. When it came to the Citizens performance, we were ready for the finale. The one last show before the end. I'll admit that I was completely run down by the whole project. I knew that it was to be expected, but I still wasn't prepared for the effect of the characterisation. We finished it and a tremendous amount of relief washed over me. I got downstairs and started mingling with the audience, they were complimenting us all every minute or so. I found myself saying ''Thank you'' very rapidly. I found my fellow cast members utilizing the free wine at the bar. I don't like wine, but I enjoyed myself nevertheless by laughing at their drunken antics. I won't name names, but they know who they are. Suddenly I got hit with a bombshell: we got the green light for the filming. I was stunned. I didn't think it would happen. But it looked like it would happen. Excitement pumped through me like the many pints of blood that keep me standing. Knowing full well the high quality of the short film, I wondered what our piece would be like filmed.

The filming began a week later. Inside the Citizens Circle studio. Many angles were shot, lots of time was used and lots of Irn-Bru was drunk, on my part that is. I've got a bit of filming experience so I wasn't too fazed by the cameras, and the others handled themselves well also. When they said that this film would be seen by school kids, not only in Glasgow, but in the whole of Scotland, I knew I had done my job. The personal mission which I had taken into the project was going to be completed.

Now we come to the end of this project, called ''Voices Of The Holocaust''. I know I will never forget this experience. I find myself even now typing this blog, reliving every moment it describes. Hopefully you will too. If you do you will be helping me fulfil my mission. To remember the past. To not forget. To learn from our mistakes. To keep the light, of our legacy of hope, burning.”

''Do not fear shadows, for it simply means there is a light shining nearby''

Scott McKay.

See the rest of the Voices From The Holocaust photos here.