freedom-fighter subject of 1-woman show.
Bulletin of Northern California
January 3, 1992
was engrossed in a visualization exercise in a "theater-making
workshop" led by a A Traveling Jewish Theatre's Corey Fischer when,
lo and behold, she had a vision.
a woman named Valia, a Polish Jew who had participated in the resistance
to the Nazis in the '30s. The way Silverstein relates the tale, she
began following Valia around, accumulating more details of her story.
two years of historical research, artistic collaboration and work-in-process
performances, Silverstein is ready to share Valia with the audience.
The Story of a Woman of Courage opens Friday Jan. 17 at the Brava
Studio Theatre, 2180 Bryant St. in San Francisco's Mission District.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 1. Information
is available at (510)464-3051.
the Jewish theme to the theater itself, the walls are embellished with
the works of Richard Kamler, Howard Margolis, Richard Rosen, and Jo
Milgrom. For those who can't take in the performance in person, Silverstein
also will perform Valia twice on the radio this month-Thursday,
Jan. 9 on KALX and Wednesday, Jan. 22 on KPFA.
be noted, to avoid any misunderstanding, that Valia is a fictional character,
as are the other four characters-all Jewish-that Silverstein plays in
the course of the multi-textured one-hour performance.
historical backdrop, however, is completely factual. The Nazis gradually
asserted more and more control over Poland from 1923 until they finally
invaded in 1939. Valia depicts that dark chapter through dozens
of slides, as well as a newscaster character who describes the latest
developments. The mixture of fiction and fact is given another emotional
dimension by Thomas Slocumb's live accompaniment on cello and lap harp.
53, describes Valia as "a multimedia piece that jumps out
of storytelling to show a world view shaped by war." The solo performance
examines some of the events that led to "the dissonant, fractured
world in which we are all seeking order and wholeness." While Valia
is inevitably about loss, Silverstein's intention is to acknowledge
female strength, thereby delivering a message of affirmation. "Valia
is a woman of vision," she explains, "and she faces the Holocaust
with courage and dignity."
of teaching and writing, Valia represents several firsts for Silverstein.
It is her first extended Jewish piece, as well as her first journey
beyond personal concerns to political considerations. It also marks
her first appearance on stage since she was a young girl.
mother said 'Don't be an actress,'" Silverstein relates, even though
theater was her first love. Then, years later, as Valia took
shape, her mother innocently asked, "How come you weren't an actress?
You're so good."
was born in New York, but left 30 years ago after graduation from Barnard
College at Columbia University. In 1969 Silverstein settled in the Bay
Area, and has continued to teach while maintaining a steady output of
poetry, essays, and criticism.
recent book, Bloodletting: A Mind at Midlife, was published in
November. A narrative that encompasses poems, letters journal entries
and graphics, Bloodletting is in part an examination of Silverstein's
relationship with her mother.
recalls that on the occasion of her first menstrual period she received
a slap from her mother. When she asked for an explanation, her mother
responded, "I don't know. Jewish superstition."
of Berkeley's Aquarian Minyan, Silverstein describes both Valia
and Bloodletting as turning points in her religious identity.
"I feel strengthened in my Judaism," she says, "and in
being able to go into my past."