The LIDA Project Presents

The Merchant of Auschwitz

A young Jewish student, captured in a time of madness, is caught with a copy of The Merchant of Venice. What follows is a debate acted out through the text of one of the most controversial plays of all time.

Based on William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
Adapted and Directed by Brian Freeland
Sound Design by Jeremiah Moore

Awarded Best Environmental/Experimental Production of 1999 by Westword's Best of Denver

Winner of the Denver Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Sound Design, 1999 Season

"In the winter of 1943 I was a member of a company which performed before the SS guards at the extermination camp of Auschwitz. We actors received prodigal hospitality and were waited on by prisoners - long columns of whom we saw with our very eyes. We were greatly astonished at their wearing only striped prison smocks in the middle of winter."

- Dieter Borsche

"The Third Reich mobilized mass audiences on a scale amounting to a cultural revolution - not so much to expose them to propagandist theatre, as to turn their very presence in the theatre into propaganda."

- Richard Grunberger

"The theatrical problems are absourbing."

- Lothar Muthel (talking about his adaptation of The Merchant of Venice to the exigencies of the Nazi race laws)

Sound Design: Program Notes

This production contains three layers of sound design: a musical score, an ambient underscore, and a recorded German simultaneous translation. Special loudspeaker diffusion systems were designed to deliver each layer from a unique and functional acoustic perspective. From the program notes:

"For A Merchant of Auschwitz, it was decided that I would create two soundtracks, a musical score for the Nazi production of Shakespeare's play, and a subtle ambient "guided coloration" for the play as a whole.

For the Nazi soundtrack we needed to have instrumental music of a style which would plausibly have been available on record in 1940 Germany. Simultaneously, it seemed that it should not be just any music. At an early rehearsal, Brian showed me a disc entitled "Silenced Voices: Victims of the Holocaust" (Northeastern NR248-CD) which he had found at the National Holocaust Museum, containing works by three composers who died in the camps, Ervin Schulhoff, Vítezslava Kapralova, and Gideon Klein. We decided immediately to pursue using this material: the irony of bringing it into this setting as underscoring for a Nazi propaganda piece was so strong and so beautiful - to let the life of this music flow into and across the layers of this play. This decision formed for me an important part of the core spirit of our work.

The last cue is from another source: Henryk Górecki's powerful 3rd symphony. The work contains a prayer found scratched into the wall of a Gestapo prison cell, along with the signature of Helena Wanda Blazusiakówna, and the words, "18 years old, imprisioned since 26 September 1944." Not far from where the composer lives in Katowice Poland lies the town of Oswiecim, better known by its German name of Auschwitz.

The ambient underscore/soundscape, blurring the line between music and sound design, was created wholly for this play and is composed from processed location recordings made in Germany, The Netherlands, Italy and the US, 1992-1999."

- Jeremiah Lyman Moore, April 1999

Friday through Sunday, April 16 - May 29, 1999
at The LIDA Project Experimental Theatre
located at 80 S. Cherokee, Denver Colorado

Denver Post
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Jeremiah Lyman Moore