History’s messenger

Karine Koret brings the story of her grandmother’s struggles


Lily,

an unflinching one-woman depiction of the life and death
struggles the actress’ grandmother endured while imprisoned at
Auschwitz, is coming to Gavilan College for a single-show run with
writer-actress Karine Koret.

Lily

was penned during one of the most stressful periods in Koret’s
life, as she struggled to complete a degree in theater from Boston
University’s School of the Arts.
“Lily,” an unflinching one-woman depiction of the life and death struggles the actress’ grandmother endured while imprisoned at Auschwitz, is coming to Gavilan College for a single-show run with writer-actress Karine Koret.

“Lily” was penned during one of the most stressful periods in Koret’s life, as she struggled to complete a degree in theater from Boston University’s School of the Arts.

“I was in conservatory for acting during my university career,” said Koret. “It was very competitive, very cutthroat. Eight hundred candidates were cut down to 60 participants to start freshman year, and after sophomore year, 40 were asked to leave. You could come to class and you could smell the fear. In fact, you could slice it, and nobody trusted anybody. If we breathed wrong they cut us.”

Koret found herself returning in those months to her grandmother’s story and the question she had always asked herself in times of trouble: if her grandmother, a girl of just 16 at the time of the Holocaust, could survive Auschwitz, couldn’t she do well in this moment?

This time, one question led to another: how had her grandmother done it? The answer, it turned out, was friendship. Koret’s grandmother, Edna “Lily” Davidoff, was one of five girls who, torn from home and completely alone after the deaths of their families, stood by one another through the remainder of their time in the camp.

Koret plays Lily as well as the other characters, who appear throughout the course of the play.

These personalities she drew from her grandmother’s stories, having met some of the real women much later.

“I barely changed a word,” said Koret. “I told her to tell it in the way an audience would want to hear because the world was ready for a story like this. What’s cool about it is you’re not just seeing someone tell a Holocaust story. You’re seeing the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor telling a Holocaust story

“All those points where (Lily) almost died, it kind of hits you that, ‘Wow! Karine wouldn’t be up there if (Lily) wasn’t pulled down into that bunker right then.”

Koret also hopes to introduce a new generation to the stories she’s grown up with.

“That generation of holocaust survivors is dying out, so who’s going to remember?” asked the actress, now 27. “Who’s going to tell the stories? I think it’s my generation’s duty.”

Koret, an artist in residence with San Francisco’s Traveling Jewish Theatre, was supposed to take “Lily” on the road this spring with a national tour. However, she has decided to move to Israel for the time being, a move that will bring her closer to her now-77-year-old grandmother.

“This is my chance to do it in English before I go,” said Koret. “I’ve been in a lot of other shows now for the last year and a half, so I haven’t had as much time for ‘Lily.’ What I’ve noticed since I started rehearsing for it again is I can’t go through the piece without crying, without breaking down.”

Koret’s performance is sponsored by Gavilan College’s Stand Together Group, Associated Student Body, Theater department and History department as well as Gilroy’s Congregation Emeth Synagogue, whose Adult Jewish Growth and Social Action committees will serve refreshments following the play.

“We are a congregation that is dedicated to lifelong learning, and we aim to deepen understanding of Judaism, strength of Jewish tradition and inspire and promote peace and social justice, so this performance about the holocaust is right on target,” said Bette Gardner, the coordinator for Adult Jewish Growth at Congregation Emeth.

An anonymous community donor made the event possible.

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