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ICWP Women Playwrights Podcast

Jan 25, 2021

Julia Pascal is a playwright and theatre director. 

In this interview, she reads from her dramatic full-length stage play AS HAPPY AS GOD IN FRANCE

The characters:

Hannah Arendt at 33                                            
Charlotte Salomon at 25
Eva Daube   at 16
Agathe Blumenfeld at 50
Trude Gottlieb  at 22  

Other roles are taken by the ensemble.

About As Happy As God in France. 

The title references the joyful Yiddish invented by  Jews in appreciation of their new status as equal citizens in post-Revolutionary France. Its use here is ironic as the play explores French antisemitism In May 1940, German Jewish exiles, seeking refuge in France were ordered to report as  'Undesirables'.  Of those 8,000 women were deported to the largest of the many camps near the Spanish border.  This drama focuses on the largest of these, Gurs, whose history is hardly known.

This text investigates the false dream of safety in France through the lens of three  German Jewish women: thirty-four-year-old, political writer, Hannah Arendt; sixteen-year-old schoolgirl Eva Daube and twenty-four-year-old painter, Charlotte Salomon. They were incarcerated during in the chaotic days between armistice and occupation. The action of this play focuses on a decision of whether to stay, and hope for liberation, or escape in to a dangerous landscape.

As Happy As God in France explores major events of the twentieth century as experienced by these women. Themes include the French betrayal of Revolutionary values, the abandonment of the Jews, sex, love, art, politics, resistance, survival, suicide and escape.  It is the first play about Arendt, Salomon and Daube in Gurs.

The facts

Hannah Arendt was in Gurs in 1940 for eight weeks. Charlotte Salomon is believed to have been incarcerated there before she was murdered in Auschwitz. Eva Daube was in Gurs. Agathe Blumenfeld and Trude Gottlieb are created from research in this hidden history.                             

The play was completed in 2020 and has had no productions.