Carlsbad playwright readies survival piece for stage premiere

Carlsbad playwright readies survival piece for stage premiere
Arnica Skulstad Brown, top, and Avalon Greenberg Call portray a Polish woman and a young Jewish girl in Poland who fight to survive during the Holocaust in the debut play, “Light Falling Down.” Courtesy photo

OCEANSIDE — “I did what I had to survive. That’s all.”

There are very few statements from her interviews with Holocaust survivors that Carlsbad playwright Aimee Greenberg incorporated verbatim into her play. But that was one of them.

“That’s an important line that somebody did say that really gets to the heart of survival,” she explained.

Though not based on any one-life story, Greenberg’s piece, “Light Falling Down,” echoes some of the experiences of Holocaust survivors she has chance-encountered in her life. Greenberg said she strived to explore both the horror and the beauty of surviving dire circumstances in her work, the world premiere of which is being produced by OTC (Oceanside Theatre Company).

The poetic drama tells of a woman who finds a young Jewish girl hiding in a hole in her garden during World War II in Poland, followed by the story of the woman’s ancestors in present day California.

Greenberg said that while she has always felt extraordinarily connected to the history of the Holocaust due to her Jewish roots, she decided to create a play around that event because of her serendipitous meetings with Holocaust survivors about 10 years ago.

“There was a reason that this kept happening. I felt a responsibility to keep documenting this,” she said.

A long time poet and playwright, she began to consider creating something out of these stories when she found that there were some survival accounts that she could not let go of.

As she wrote the play, she said that she came to see that when people are living with death, “The unconscious is really wide open and that’s the place where poetry and imagery live.”

Greenberg consequently worked to incorporate numerous literary devices into her play to contrast the horrific setting of the Holocaust with beautiful language.

It was that language that attracted OTC Artistic Director Christopher Williams to taking on the play at The Brooks Theatre in Oceanside.

“I read it and I was inspired by the differences in language she had used compared to the other plays of that genre,” said Williams, who also is directing the play.

Because the play had only been read before, Williams and Greenberg decided to work from the ground up to construct the piece into a stage production together.

Greenberg said it has been quite a task to see her play go from, “the page to the stage.”

“I’m watching my words come to life on stage and maybe that wasn’t what I meant and maybe that wasn’t the character that I envisioned, and then maybe there are things I didn’t see,” she said of the creative process.

But on the whole she said she is grateful for the opportunity to stage her original work, because she finds that most theaters in San Diego are reluctant to take a chance on an un-tested play.

Williams, on the other hand, said he aspires to turn The Brooks Theatre into a venue that showcases North County talent.

“To have the opportunity to push the envelope a little bit, I love that,” he said. “I’m just grateful that (Greenberg) trusted us with this production.”

“Light Falling Down” opens at The Brooks Theatre Oct. 26 and runs through Nov. 3. Visit oceansidetheatre.org for show times and more information.

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