AskAbigail Productions Request for Submission of New Musical Theatre Works
Summary: Musical Theatre based on how Jewish musical and religious practices and identities impacted the survival of Jews in the twentieth century.
Submission Deadline: August 26, 2019 Date Posted: June 13, 2019
Details: AskAbigail Productions is pleased to invite artists to submit works for a new musical theatre production about Jewish religion, culture and music, focusing specifically on the life of Moshe Krauss.
We are seeking submission from artists who can create and perform musical theatre based on one of the following themes:
Theme 1: Jewish life in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Germany, Poland, Austria prior to 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland.
Locations: Ungvar Czech, Kereztir Hungary, Munkatch Ukraine, Vienna Austria.
Key Characters: Moshe Kraus and his Hassidic family in Ungvar/Uzhorod; Moshe’s grandfather, a Hassidic Rebbe, called Reb Shayele of Kerezstir, (Hungary); Other Rebbes; Yosef Schmidt a Jewish Chazzan from Romania who became the darling of German opera over the radio prior to WWII and Josef Schmidt’s teacher, Prof. Wolfe of Vienna who also taught Moshe Kraus for a few months prior to WWll.
Key events on which to base the drama:
Moshe Kraus, the eldest of 9 children, was born the grandson of a hassidic Rebbe (Reb Shayele). People would come from far and wide to enjoy the end of the Sabbath with the Rebbe – a melave malks would be an all night musical event with food for all. The Rebbe devoted all of his funds all the time to help the poor and needy who came for help. Moshe was taken to the Rebbe at birth for a blessing and the Rebbe said he had a “zisse piskele” – a sweet little mouth. Moshe Kraus was discovered to be a musical child prodigy from an early age and was sent to sing at many Hassidic courts all over Europe from the age of 9.
After his bar mitzva, even though he was not married and very small in stature, he was hired to be the cantor/hazzan/musical prayer leader for a synagogue in Sighet, Eli Wiesel’s home town, and Eli was a soloist in Moshe Kraus’ choir. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
As a young man, Moshe Kraus listened to the radio and along with everyone else all over Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe, he became enamored with the voice of Yosef Schmidt. Yosef was a Jewish born cantor/hazzan/prayerleader from Romania whose voice made him the number one star of European opera on radio and in movies of the time. Moshe determined that he had to sing “like Yosef Schmidt”. He was able to discover who Yosef Schmidt’s teacher was and his friends got the money together for him to go to Vienna to train with Yosef Schmidt’s teacher Prof. Wolfe.
He was received by the Prof. Wolfe, who told hm that unfortunately, his schedule was full with pupils from 9 am – 9pm. But as Moshe was leaving, Prof. Wolfe asked him to sing for him: and when he heard Moshe sing he said “I cannot let a tenor like this go” and he made a slot for Moshe from 8 – 9 in the morning which lasted for a few months until Kristalnacht when Moshe came out early morning and saw the synagogues burning, he caught the first train to Prague.
Theme 2: During the war – 1939 to 1945
Locations: Bor mine in Serbia and Bergen-Belsen
Key Characters: Moshe Kraus at 19 years old; Neroshes; Rabbi Meir Leifer; Josef Kramer;
Key events on which to base the drama:
In 1943 Moshe Krauss was taken to the first of the two concentration camps. He recalls, “when taken off the train about the first thing I noticed was that the inmates’ heads were shaven completely.” Moshe Kraus was quickly introduced to the order of things. Hungarian Nazis or “Neroshes” would bring inmates into the mining tunnels to supervise and watch them work. They would also routinely kick and beat the inmates. Moshe Kraus’ job was to push a wagon of coal from the mine to the trains for transport to Germany. At Bor, Moshe Kraus was able to connect with Rabbi Meir Leifer, the only man walking around wearing a “yamalka”: They were both members of Hassidic communities and shared the struggle to observe their religion. As Rosh Hashana approached, Rabbi Meir Leifer told Moshe that he had been given permission to conduct these services and he asked Moshe Kraus to lead the prayer services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On the eve of Yom Kippur, Moshe was beginning the Kol Nidrei and thousands were gathered outdoors for the services, the crowd heard people yelling “Run, The Nazis are coming”. Everyone ran back to their barracks except for Moshe Kraus. The Nazis caught him and sentenced him to hang – to hang by his hands tied behind his back. For ten hours, he painfully remained in that position until his arms and hands went numb. He was finally released and put in a locked cell all alone with a bowl of soup: But his arms were numb and he was unable to feed himself. Rabbi Leifer managed somehow to gain access to the cell in the middle of the night and to feed him like. baby two nights in a row. This saved his life. On the third day the door opened and a Nazi guard said: “Du leibst noch!” “you are still alive!” He remained in Bor for another 13 months until he was transported to Bergen-Belsen Concentration camp.
Arriving at Belsen was another kind of shock. To cope, Moshe Kraus began to go from barrack to barrack every night singing uplifting songs to raise the spirits of the imprisoned people. One day, he was ordered to be driven to the home of the commandant of Bergen Belson – Josef Kramer, nicknamed “The Beast of Belsen,” who asked him if he knew how to sing in German, more specifically if he knew how to sing “like Yosef Schmidt”. The Commandant was delighted by Kraus’ performance. The commandant gave orders not to harm Kraus so that he could return every Sunday to sing for him up until about a month before liberation as thousands of additional prisoners began arriving in Bergen Belson. Moshe Kraus was close to dying of starvation On April 15, 1945, when Bergen-Belsen Camp was liberated by the English forces. Moshe was so weak he could not walk.
He was carried to the infirmary and after several days regained his strength.
Nazi Commandant Josef Kramer was put on trial for his actions and sentenced to death by hanging. His final request was for Moshe Kraus to be present at his hanging. Although Moshe was conflicted about going he did go and he could not prevent his basic compassion from bringing him to tears at the moment of Kramers’ death.
Theme 3: After the war – 1945 to Present
Locations: Displaced Persons Camps all over Europe; Romania; Israel; Ottawa
Key Characters: Yigael Yadin; Rivka Kraus; Pieree Elliott Trudeau and Justin Trudeau
Key events on which to base the drama:
After liberation and revival of his health – (he was close to starvation and could barely move when the English arrived), Moshe Kraus was hired to be the secretary for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Committee known as “the Joint” by Rabbi Schwartz. The joint’s mission was and is to rescue Jews wherever they are in the world. The Joint worked with UNRA to estatablish jewish displaced persons camps and to reestablish Jewish communities and communal practices in displaced persons camps for Jews that now dotted all of Europe. Everybody including Moshe Kraus was broken and bereft but one of the first things the inmates asked for was a ritual bath or “mikve” – the practice requires Jewish women to immerse in the mikve after the cessatio of their periods and prior to having sexual relations. The urge to create new families was powerful. During the first few months there were 20 weddings a day amongst the survivors. Moshe was designated to perform marriage ceremonies and to lead prayer services. Over 2000 babies were born within the first year amongst the refugees.
Struggling to know if any of his family remained alive, Moshe asked for leave to go to Romania where many survivors were congregating. There he found two of his sisters. He was still hoping and praying to find his parents and his younger siblings. It was not long before he learned of the fate of his mother and father and that of his five youngest siblings.
In 1949 as the refugees were dispersing, Moshe decided to sail to Israel and upon arrival, still feeling lost, he decided to join the IDF. Once there he was able to find his only living brother, Yoel Herschel who was also in the IDF. At first Moshe was
assigned to assemble and disassemble tanks but when Yigael Yadin commander f the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) heard Moshe performing a marriage ceremony he enlisted him to become the first Cantor for the Israel Defense Forces. Moshe recalls Yigael’s words, “I can always find another machinist but not everyday can I find someone with a voice like yours.”
While in the IDF Moshe met and married Rivka Kraus and together they followed Moshe’s career as a congregational cantor and Jewish musical performer all over the world: Antwerp, Johannesberg, Mexico City and finally Ottawa.
They arrived in Canada in the 1980’s and have been living there ever since with due recognition from Canadian prime ministers, Pierre Elliott and Justin Trudeau and others in both the Jewish and non Jewish community. In 2017 Moshe Kraus was invited to Winnipeg by pastor Rudy Fidel. He was invited to speak to a gym full of High School students about his war experiences: He spoke about his ordeal in Bor noted above: https://vimeo.com/268676601. During the same visit he was also invited to speak at Pastor Rudy’s an interfaith intercultural Church service Sunday morning: https://vimeo.com/238111161. (He begins to speak at 10:35 min) He was also invited each year to light the Chanukah candles infront of the Hungarian parliament and to lead services in the legendary great synagogue in Budapest (the Dohany). For a video summary of Moshe’s life see: https://vimeo.com/239833502
In 2019, Rivka and Moshe plan to make Aliya and spend their last years in Israel at a seniors residence facing the ocean in Tel Aviv.
-Copyright clearance must be obtained prior to entry
-Submissions must be new works not currently accepted by a theatre company -Works may have been workshopped, but should not have received a premiere performance
-Works should show an awareness of the theme of the project, in addition to practical realities of rehearsal and performance
-AskAbigail Productions will hold the rights for the premiere performances
– For more information about the life of Moshe Kraus please refer to “The Life of
Moshele Der Zinger: How My Singing Saved My Life” by Cantor Kraus, available at Cote St. Luc Public Library
-A detailed proposal in pdf format
-Music and dialogue format
-Inclusion of a recording of work-shopped scenes
-Minimum 10 minutes each piece
-Each composer may submit up to three (3) works
-Pieces that can be showcased in performance on a scheduled date
Submission should also include:
-Letter of Introduction -Resume
If no entry is deemed appropriate, the panel reserves the right to not make a selection and no fee will be awarded.
26 August 2019 Submission Deadline
2 September 2019 Finalists Announced
8 September 2019 Auditions
15 September 2019 Premiere Production and filming of scenes
*Note: If necessary, AskAbigail Productions reserves the right to revise the dates
First place: $5000 Second place: $3000 Third place: $1000
About AskAbigail Production:
AskAbigail Productions is a Montreal-based production company focused on Jewish themes. Abigail Hirsch, the founder of the company, has created a number of documentaries that have been screened nationally and internationally. Click here to visit the website. www.AskAbigailProductions.com
Submissions May Be Sent To:
New Musical Theatre Submission 3450 Drummond St. Suite 1103b Montreal, QC, H3G 1Y2