For Tomorrow combines story telling, music and a slideshow. The experience was like a grade school living history day. There were times when the adroitly sad expressions of the musicians and the singer were profoundly humorous as it seemed they were trying to convey the gravity of the story to a group of unknowing children. Since the entire audience was mature and concerned, their pained expressions seemed a little condescending.
The way that Gail Rosen told the story in the wobbling voice of the elderly Hilda was gently charming. Though told humbly, the story itself is breathtaking; for Hilda lived through the Holocaust, both the Lodz Ghetto and Auschwitz, and survived to experience a full life. Rosen’s contribution was her ability to choose and connect the anecdotes from Cohen’s life.
The thing I appreciated most was the way that Rosen added the phrase, “I am not Hilda.” It was a respectful acknowledgment that she could never really understand the pain she was telling us about. It was a disclaimer that added an emotional distance that preserved the story from exploitation. Another element that reminded the audience they could not completely understand the pain of Hilda was the use of German and not simply English. Rosen wanted it to be clear she would not change the words of Hilda. And to Rosen’s credit, I heard Hilda and not Rosen.
Many of the poems used to tell Hilda’s story were also sung in German. It all sounded like Wagner to me (my only other contact with anything German) and though there were no glaring mistakes, the music was not the high point of the performance.
To be honest, I wiggled like a kid toward the end of the 90 minutes, got teary-eyed twice (when Hilda described her father’s death and being reunited with her sister), enjoyed Rosen’s storytelling, and was slightly annoyed by the music.
Running Time: 90 minutes
Tickets: For Hilda: Story & Poetry of Hilda Stern Cohen
Remaining Shows: Wed, July 16 at 7
Where: Goethe Institut, 812 7th Street NW
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