Monday, July 19, 2010

Be sure to see our web-site: WWW.WESTERBORKSERENADE.COM

"AUF DER HEIDE" ("on the heath")from Humor und Melodie at Westerbork 1943

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Westerbork Serenade Netherlands 2010: The Inside Scoop...

(Left)Film-makers: Erga Netz & Izzy Abrahami,
(Center)Producer: Xaviera Hollander,
Actor/Writer: David Natale (right)

David Natale collaborates with Happy Hooker and radical film-makers to bring show to Holland
-and we need your help!

That's right Westerbork Serenade will be in the Netherlands Nov 19th-29th! (see previous blog)

Nu,so how did this come about?

I look back on all the twists and turns this project has taken me along over the past years:

First it was my MFA thesis project at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego back in 1996. Then I did the show at the first New York City Fringe Fest in 1998. In '99 we did a version at my friends' theatre in Williansburgh Brooklyn. For the rest of the decade I continued to perform the piece at various venues throughout New York City and the East Coast.

At every performance and with every version, I have met survivors and historians. Each time I have learned a little bit more about Westerbork and have explored more deeply the vile subtlties of this particular story of the Shoah.

In 2006 I produced a reading of the piece with a full cast of actors in Seattle. In 2008, under the direction of Gin Hammond, we returned to the solo style and re-worked the show to eliminate props and costume changes.

The 2008 show, a co-production with Rik Deskin and the Eclectic Theatre Company in Seattle, won a Seattle Times Foot-Light Award (see 12/29/08 entry)

My web-site and blog were set up and I began to receive inquiries from relatives and descendants of performers from Westerbork. I also got a variety of queries from historians, film-makers, art dealers and con artists.

Sarah Waisvitz (see 11/12/08 entry)inquired about her Grandmother's husband, Max Kannewaser, who was Jones in the Dutch singing duo: Johnny and Jones.

Last fall Gin Hammond saw a Theatre Communications Guild grant emphasizing international collaboration.

Soon after, documentary film makers: Erga Netz and Izzy Abrahami ( ), who live in the Netherlands, contacted me because they are working on a film about Johnny and Jones and were coming to the U.S. to interview Ms. Waisvitz's Grandmother.

I agreed to join them in San Fransisco to help with their interview if they could help me with the TCG collaboration grant (see 10/15/09 entry).

In February. I went to SF and was interviewed by Netz and Abrahami. We also visited the assisted living facility where Jones' widow lives. There I performed the song, "The Westerbork Serenade," for Mrs. Waisvitz, her son and granddaughter, as well as other residents.

Abrahami and Netz had connected me to the famous Dutch writer and former madam: Xaviera Hollander. Some of you might remember her from your school days (or behind the school) when you read her 1971 best seller: The Happy Hooker.

Xaviera is still writing. She also runs bed and breakfasts in Amsterdam and Mirabella Spain and she produces small theatrical productions, often with Jewish themes ( ).
Xaviera agreed to produce my show.

Long story short: I did not get the TCG grant. But with the help of Fans and Angels in the Seattle area, the Netherlands shows will happen.

Xaviera has booked dates in Amsterdam and The Hague. Netz and Abrahammi will film the performances as well as a trip to the actual camp Westerbork. I will also appear on a talk show in Drenthe, a town near where Westerbork is located.

We still could use help.

There will be a benefit performance on October 13Th at the Odd Duck Studio in Seattle.

In the meantime feel free to donate at Just hit the "donate" tab which leads you to Pay-Pal where you can donate to .

We could also use technical support:
someone to help with sound and or lights in the Netherlands-as well as running interference for me.

I don't have much money, but you can stay with me there and there is a possibility of some help with a plane ticket.

Hey if you will be over there anyway, let me know.

Westerbork Serenade is going to Holland! Nov 19th-29th 2010

American actor and playwright, David Natale brings home a seldom remembered story of the Holocaust in Holland with his award winning one-man show: The Westerbork Serenade.

Because of anxiety over increased immigration, in 1939 the Dutch government set up a camp near the town of Westerbork to hold the stream of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. After 1940, the Nazis turned Lager Westerbork into a transit camp which funneled more than 100,000 Jews to their doom in the eastern camps.

Westerbork was not a death camp.
It was crowded and food scarce, but one could survive there. Westerbork even had a hospital, schools and a shop offering goods previously looted from the Jews. Administration of the camp was run by the German speaking Jewish inmates.

The SS commandant’s pet project was a weekly cabaret show at Westerbork. It featured top Jewish entertainers from Germany and Holland. If one was in the show, one was “exempt” from transport-temporarily. By the end of the war, however, most of the performers from Westerbork were also sent to their deaths in eastern camps, joining the eventual six million who died.

Mr. Natale seamlessly portrays more than 15 characters; including German director, Max Ehrlich, actress Camilla Spira, Commandant Gemmeker and the beloved Dutch singing duo, Johnny and Jones.

Natale developed The Westerbork Serenade after much research as well as interviews with survivors. In English, he dynamically incorporates period sketches, songs and accounts to make the audience acutely feel what it is to perform for one’s life.

* * *

Amerikaanse acteur en toneel schrijver, David Natale, laat een voorstelling zien van een bijna vergeten gebeuren uit de oorlogstijd in Nederland met zijn bekroonde one-man toneelstuk : “The Westerbork Serenade”.

Zoals wellicht bekend, besloot de Nederlandse regering vanwege het snel toenemend aantal Joodse vluchtelingen uit Duitsland, in 1939 een opvang kamp voor hen te bouwen in de buurt van Westerbork.
Na de invasie in 1940 veranderden de Nazis “Lager Westerbork” tot een z.g. doorvoer kamp, van waar uit meer dan 100.000 Joden afgevoerd werden naar hun noodlottige bestemming in de Duitse vernietigings kampen.
Kamp Westerbork was geen concentratie kamp, het bleef een doorvoer kamp.
Het was er overvol, het eten was schaars, maar men kon er overleven.
Westerbork had zelfs een ziekenhuis, scholen en een winkel, met “koopwaar” (van eerder gestolen Joodse goederen). De administratie van het kamp was in de handen van Duits sprekende Joodse medegevangenen.

Het favoriete project van de SS commandant was het wekelijkse cabaret in kamp Westerbork met Joodse top artiesten, uit Duitsland zowel als Nederland, als cabaretiers. Zolang zij optraden in de show waren zij (tijdelijk) vrijgesteld van transport.
Tegen het einde van de oorlog werden echter de meesten van deze Westerbork artiesten toch ook nog de dood ingestuurd in de concentratie kampen in Oost Europa en deelden het lot met wat later zou blijken, 6 miljoen andere slachtoffers.

Mr Natale geeft een naadloze uitbeelding van meer dan 15 personen in Westerbork, zoals o.a. de Duitse regisseur Max Ehrlich, actrice Camilla Spira, Commandant Gemmeker en het populaire Nederlandse zang duo “Johnny and Jones”.
Natale baseerde “the Westerbork Serenade” op jaren van diepgaand onderzoek alsmede interviews met overlevenden.
Hoewel in het Engels, combineert hij de liedjes, sketches en beschrijvingen uit die tijd zo boeiend, dat ongetwijfeld ook het Nederlandse publiek zich direct zeer bewust wordt van wat het betekent om letterlijk te moeten spelen kiezen voor je leven.


Nov 13: New Liberal Jewish Center
Amsterdam, for tickets:

Nov 19th and 20th: Apollofirst Hotel theatre
Apollolaan 123-127
1077 AP Amsterdam

Nov 21st: Van Ostade Theater
Van Ostadestraat 233D
1073 TN Amsterdam

Nov 28th and 29th: Theater PePijn
Nieuwe Schoolstraat 21-23
2514 HT 's-Gravenhage