European Association for Jewish Culture 



European Association for Jewish Culture 


Spring-Summer 2001

Performing Arts

by Rafaële Arditti


Howard Butten is an American clown, of Jewish descent, named Buffo, and a writer, who also looks after autistic children. He has been on stage in many shows in Paris over the last weeks. Accompanied by violinist Pierre Amoyal, he has appeared in a musical show, Sonata for Violin and Red Nose. His extremely purist clown act allows him to take pleasure in very small objects including a finger and a tiny violin, for example, and he tenderly takes the audience with him through his different moods, by listening, and then by playing music.

Using few words and a great deal of music, Buffo makes it possible for poetry and imagination to occupy centre stage. His performance gathers strength when, for example, he calls for a moment of silence on the death of the little violin crushed beneath his overly intrepid foot, or when he lays it to rest in the black grand piano, which momentarily resembles a coffin.

Howard Butten, the clown Buffo

Howard Butten, the clown Buffo

His attentiveness to music and his independence in the face of authority, here portrayed by his violin teacher Pierre Amoyal, lead Buffo into a flowing dance which demonstrates his joy.

In a second show entitled Mr. Butterfly, Howard Butten combines his talent as a clown with his psychiatrist's understanding. He tells the story of Hoover Sears, a clown, who is central to the lives of four handicapped people, utterly forgotten by society, who tries to communicate in a different mode, which annoys the institution. Butten addresses the problem of difference, of conventions, and of other people's perception of us with humour, finesse, and tenderness.

by Michèle Lévy-Taïeb

A New Jewish Theatre in Berlin

For the first time since 1933, Jewish theatre has reappeared in Berlin. The Jewish Stage of Berlin is directed by Dan Lahav, an ex-member of Habimah and former student at Marcel Marceau's School for Mime which has operated in Berlin for the last twenty years. Lahav wants to bring Eastern European Jewish theatre, including such plays as The Golem, The Dybbuk, and stage adaptations of the stories of Itsik Manger and Shalom Aleichem, to the public. Most of the actors are German Jews or Israelis living in Berlin.

What's Playing...

In late 2000 and early 2001, a number of plays about the many threads of Judaism were staged in France.

A Disrupted Life 

In A Disrupted Life, Etty Hillesum recounts the last two years in the life of a young Jewish Dutch girl, Anne Frank's soul sister. "We would like to be a balm poured on all the wounds," is the final cry of hope of a woman near death who, while no heroine, proved how we can occasionally surprise ourselves. Etty Hillesum died at Auschwitz in 1943 aged 27. A Disrupted Life has been staged regularly in various theatres, with Anne Marbeau, Isabelle Colombe, Valérie Zarouk in the starring role.

A Young Girl of Privilege

Francine Christophe gives a sober account of the hell of the camps at Poitiers, Pithiviers, Beaune la Roland, Drancy, and Bergen Belsen. Fifty years later, she has written an extremely personal account in A Young Girl of Privilege, adapted and staged by Philippe Ogouz and starring Mireille Perrier. The long road from hell that she shared with her mother included hunger, cold, typhus and above all, humiliation and fear. Both mother and daughter survived the nightmare, but not unscathed, and their story remains haunting. Staged at the beginning of the year, the play will run in France and in some major European cities.

The Terezin Opera

Liliane Atlan, author of the most poetic, poignant texts on the Holocaust, has produced, with Patrick Hahhiag, a prodigious work that is staged like a ritual. This opera was broadcast on France Culture radio station and was the subject of many lectures in a number of institutions in France and abroad.

Coats with People in Them

The Jesters of Bassan Company invited us to an exploration of Jean Pierre Cannet's text. The play describes the surprising, stormy, moving meeting between Emma, an old Jewish woman who was deported, along with her parents, and a young gypsy who is also heir to a painful past.

Amorphous of Ottenburg

The major theatre event of the year 2000 was without any doubt the inclusion in the repertory of the Comédie Française of Jean- Claude Grumberg's latest play, Amorphe d'Ottenburg. A terrifying tale somewhere between King Ubu and Dracula, an opera bouffe on the political and economic madness of the totalitarian regime of a royal family. This satanic waltz, fraught with symbols and allegories, recalls Nazi barbarity. A great theatrical moment orchestrated by Jean Michel Ribes.

The Return of Boris S.

At the Théâtre de l'Oeuvre in Paris, staged by Marcel Bluwal, starring Michel Aumont and Robin Renucci, two talented actors, this play presents the odyssey of a man's search for identity. Serge Kribus writes to exorcise his fear, "fear of not knowing, fear of knowing, fear of his father, fear of becoming used to being afraid…." He evokes the conflicted, passionate relationship of two emotional characters who live out the confrontation between two generations and who confront each other in the transmission of Jewish values from father to son, the one fighting against forgetting, and the other fighting to forget.

George Berreby takes us on a journey of initiation through Jerusalem on a true inner adventure between a father and a son who meet in Israel, after many years. During their trip in the Old City, father and son compare their visions of the world and their conceptions of life, which are diametrically opposed to each other.

Gilles Ségal

Not to be missed during the coming months. Gilles Segal, author of Mr. Schpill and Mr. Tippeton, has written, and plays one of the characters in During That Time, Love… at the Cachan Theatre and the Espace Kiron. A survivor from an extermination camp, an old man remembers how, in the train taking them to hell, a father continues to teach his 12-year old son geography, literature and philosophy as if life were not about to end. 

Three of the most popular playwrights

The work of three authors, including two contemporary writers, has been frequently produced in national theatres.

Victor Haïm is a prolific, acerbic writer, who aptly dissects the many eccentricities of our society and uses language like a scalpel. In 2000 and 2001, Victor Haïm's most popular play, The Visit, brings to life the brilliant oratory joust between a psychiatrist and a disturbing visitor. Velouté (Velvety), another of Haïm's grating plays, points a finger at the perverse processes of our competitive and profit-making society. Victor Haïm, Emmanuel Deschartre, and Dominique Arden play the main characters in this psychological thriller showing at the Théâtre de l'Essaien.

Victor Haïm

Yasmina Reza is another brilliant, original writer whose work reflects a certain rather sophisticated contemporary reality that sells well. She has produced several internationally successful works, including her most recent play Three Versions of Life. Two other plays are also regularly performed. Hammerklavier is a more personal work based on autobiographical anecdotes that fit together like a puzzle. The Waltz of Chance (La valse du hasard) is currently playing at the Théâtre de l'Atelier starring Philippe Noiret and Catherine Rich, two of France's best actors.

Yasmina Reza

Stephan Zweig was one of the greatest Jewish writers of his generation. His plays are produced more and more frequently in France. Letter From an Unknown Woman, and The Chess Player, the extraordinary tale of an exceptional chess player who escapes the Nazis thanks to his talent, are the most popular.

Ocradek II Meetings

The second event orchestrated by Fabienne Ankaoua, The Ocradek meetings include debates, readings, and dramatizations by different actors, historians, psychoanalysts, writers and philosophers. The theme this year is The Tragedy of Being: Jewish and Greek Heroes


'Ocradek': Jewish Heroes, Greek Heroes

Jewish Women

The Théâtre du Marais is currently running the historical play Jewish Women by Robert Garnier, a lawyer born in 1544. The play recounts the story of Nebuchadnezzar, King of the Assyrians, who revolts against Sedicia. A central work by Robert Garnier, Jewish Women plunges us into the violent, pitiless universe of wars for power. Eric Genovese, of the Comédie Française, is the director.


Racine's tragedy is directed by Daniel Mesguich, who just finished the run of The Devil and The Good Lord and who is about to direct Elephant Man. This moving play recounts the story of a persecuted people in search of dignity and freedom.




Racine's Esther

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