Courtney Surmanek

              



The Listeners and the Talkers


Co-Director, Co-Writer

How do we live joyful and hopeful lives?

The Listeners and the Talkers was an interview-based play exploring personal narratives and family and community histories of elder Jewish women living in Borough Park, Brooklyn, NY, many of whom are Holocaust survivors or  partners of survivors. Nearly all the women were practicing Hasidic Jews of the Bobov sect. The experience challenged everything I thought I knew about Judaism, about elder women, and about theater.

Together, we explored the making and meaning of joy. As you might imagine, stories surrounding the Holocaust permeated joy, too. We spoke about Jewish family values and the loss of language and culture, most especially how names are altered and forgotten in favor of Americanization. We shared stories about coming of age, love, and kinship.

Co-Directed by Courtney Surmanek and Vaimoana Niumeitolu, and Co-Written by Courtney Surmanek, Vaimoana Niumeitolu, and elders at the Boro Park Y.

This project was part of the SU-CASA 2019 Artist Residency program. SU-CASA is a collaboration among the New York City Council, the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Department for the Aging. The Town Hall, a theatre in midtown created by suffragists in 1921, was the partnering organization.