A dance theatre work written by Julia Pascal
Theresa is based on the real life of Viennese Jew Theresa Steiner, who was betrayed to the Nazis by the British authorities on the island of Guernsey. Along with other Jewish women living on the island, Theresa Steiner was sent from Guernsey to Auschwitz, where she was gassed.
This is the story of the only British territory to be invaded by the Nazis and the play reveals a secret history of large scale collaboration.
“Pascal’s play is a tense and stirring piece of theatre, acted with fierce intensity by an international cast”
The Times Read more
“… an excellent example of how skilled players can convey a wide range of character and emotion with only
a few props and a shift of expression and accent”
“Truly experimental and truly European, Theresa plays with form on every level, fusing dance with theatre, music with text
and juggling fragment of French, German and Polish within a predominantly English script… arresting”
VIENNA MUSIC CONSERVATORY 1938
(THERESA gives her final lecture to her students in Vienna Conservatory.)
Today we were to continue our discussion on Schönberg. We will not be doing that because today is my last day as Professor of Music in this Conservatory. The Nazis have forbidden Jews to teach gentiles. We Jewish teachers must disappear. As undergraduates you have the right to expect the broadest education. We are all the inheritors of those who question our bourgeois, conservative society. New forms are being expressed. James Joyce, Sigmund Freud, Alban Berg, Stravinsky, Schönberg, Weill, Eisler are a few who challenge the old order. These men are despised by the Nazis. Hitler sees them as ‘degenerate’. But what is ‘degenerate’? To him all Jews are ‘degenerate’. To him Bolsheviks, Communists and Socialists are ‘degenerate’. They are taking these so-called degenerates to Dachau. When I was a young woman I used to stare in fascination at my own hair. Sometimes a strand of black, coarse, frizzy hair would appear. My hair always had to be tamed when I was a child and there were hours spent by mother brushing it in some kind of order. I used to care because it wasn’t smooth and fair like other girls’. It was like a gypsy’s, they would say. Or an African’s. The Nazi ideal is to make people with hair and features which conform to the Aryan stereotype. In this New World there will be no room for our differences. Our quirky individual differences. Beauty will be made to order. They are already killing their own old people and they want to kill all Jews, gypsies, Communists and homosexuals – anyone who doesn’t fi t into the myth of the Super Race. Up to now you’ve been lucky enough to taste the flavour of these new languages. You’ve listened to Schönberg, read Sigmund Freud, seen the works of Erwin Piscator and Georg Grosz. Whether you accept the Nazi art is up to you. But you will have tasted the forbidden. Whatever happens to me, you must go on. Remember our discussions and whisper them to your friends. Seal them in your brain cells until this ‘order’ is over. [Pause.] I wish you long life.
May I speak to you, Frau Doktor Steiner?
Yes, of course.
My name is Esther Jacobson. I am from Paris. I heard your talk.
You are not one of my students, are you?
No. I am studying Fine Art. Or rather, I was studying.
Are you a Jew?
I have a Jewish grandmother.
You could go back to France.
And if the Nazis invade France there will be plenty of ‘righteous Christians’ who will be delighted to talk about my grandmother.
What will you do?
I have to go to Palestine. It’s the only place we can be safe.
And if the British don’t allow you in?
I’ll get in illegally. Come with us?
I can’t do that.
I don’t speak Hebrew.
There is more to it than the language. I am a European. I am not a Zionist. Europe is my home. We are Austrians. My husband fought in the last war. My parents came from Poland. I speak Polish, German, French and English. These are my languages. I am a European. Why should I be pushed off this continent because one man says so? I have the right to live here. Why should I be forced to live in the Middle East?
How will you survive?
I will go to London. I have made arrangements. I will go to London with my son. We will wait until this is over. We will start again.
Excuse me but aren’t you being a little naïve?
Naïve? [Beat.] Maybe you are right. I have become a ‘Christian’ Jew. I’ve got used to a little bit of antisemitism every day. A remark about a large nose, a dark appearance, love of money. Killer of Jesus.
Maybe I’ll see you next year? InJerusalem?
Theresa was premiered at the Gulbenkian Theatre, Newcastle in 1990 and has since played in London at:
Willesden Green Library
Lilian Baylis Theatre
Theresa played internationally
The International Theatre Festival, Maubeuge
Gallus Theatre, Frankfurt
Universities of Kassel, Giessen and Heidelberg
Breitenau’s former concentration camp
Director: Julia Pascal
Choreography: Thomas Kampe
Lighting: Ian Watts
Sound: Colin Brown
Original Music: Kyla Greenbaum