The making of the Escape Act

Posted on 3rd May 2022

The Escape Act: A Holocaust Memoir, a new show from New York artist and performer Stav Meishar will be coming to Basingstoke.

The Escape Act: A Holocaust Memoir has been supported by Arts Council England and The European Cultural Association, and was commissioned by the Transfolk Kucku Festival 2019 in Loviisa, Finland.
“The Escape Act” is a one-woman theatre show incorporating circus and puppetry. It has been written and performed by New York artist Stav Meishar and is a fascinating culmination of theatre, circus, historical research and artistic exploration. It delves into the depths of multi-generational trauma and timeless humane questions and explores the power of circus as a place of refuge and escape.
It is based on the life of Irene Danner, a Jewish acrobat who survived the Holocaust hiding from the Nazis at a German circus. The show goes back and forth between past and present, between character and performer, and combines the historical events of Irene’s life with the experiences of the performer as a grandchild to Holocaust survivors.
The play examines Irene’s life between 1933 and 1945: from a teen witnessing the rise of the Third Reich, through joining the circus undercover, to falling in love and starting her own family – all under the protection of the Althoff Circus. As the performer travels through Irene’s life it triggers memories of her own family history, of struggles, inherited traumas and their domino effect – and with the past looming closer and closer, she is forced to invite it in.

Both a historical and theatrical project, it is a culmination of six years of research into the lives of German-Jewish circus families between 1929-1945. The artist has dug through archives and libraries, collected testimonies and interviewed witnesses, in an effort to document and commemorate their legacies.

Stav Meishar says, “I’m very excited to be taking The Escape Act to new audiences and being able to share this important and forgotten history with a wide variety of audiences, especially during such a politically charged time when the present is beginning to remind us of the past.”

I felt compelled to make this work of historical circus-theatre in light of the current climate. With statistics showing 1 in 20 Britons disbelieving that the Holocaust happened, it’s no wonder we’re inching towards repeating our history. With
refugees knocking on Europe’s door, homosexuals being sent to concentration camps and anti-Semitic hate crimes on the rise, I feel this is the time when the world needs to hear these stories. This show is not just about Jews under siege, it is about the non-Jews who risked their lives to save them, who took a chance doing what they knew was morally right. Their story is a powerful example of the positive impact courageous acts can have for generations to come, and of what happens when people refuse to let atrocities be done in their name.

For a more in-depth look at the history behind the show please visit the dedicated website.

You can see the Escape Act: A Holocaust Memoir on Tuesday 3rd May @ 7.30pm

Tickets are priced at £11, £9 concessions

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