1) What was your inspiration for writing The Prediction?
I was reading a book about Franklin Roosevelt, and I saw a small item about a refugee ship, the St. Louis I believe was the name of it, that was turned away from one Caribbean island after another. I thought the situation would make a good play (I later found of course that I was not the first playwright to think of this). Then, as the idea developed, I started thinking about how political debates are often driven by a kind of blind orthodoxy, which is often driven by experience and personality, so I set it earlier than that event took place, and made the conflict the uncertainty of what the Nazis could and would do. Like a lot of fathers and sons, Bertie and Karl are embroiled in a lifelong political debate– but the stakes couldn’t be higher.
2) The play is historical fiction, how much research did you do on late 1930’s German refugees?
I did a lot of reading about the political situation in Germany in 1935-38, the period leading up to Hitler’s military aggression in Europe. The most helpful book was The War Against the Jews by Lucy S. Dawidowicz. I tried to find reasoning for each character’s position, and facts and anecdotes that would likely find their way into political conversations. I also talked a lot to my wife’s grandfather, who is a Holocaust survivor, about the tone and thinking in the years leading up to ghettoization and deportation. It was through him that I learned that Bertie’s position, (that the Nazis were just a phase Germany had to get over) was actually held by many Jews in Germany and Austria, especially those who were more financially comfortable, as Bertie is. I did not do a lot of research on refugees who sailed to the Caribbean, just some general reading. Most of the Cuban stuff in this play, like the help from the American Jewish casino owner, is pure invention.
3) When do you like to write? Early morning or late at night? And what do you always have to have with you when you are working?
I don’t have a consistent answer to this question, except that when I’m in a period of writing, it has to be the same time every day, and the same amount of time. Most of the writing of The Prediction happened during afternoons across two summers. I work from notes– points that I have to hit in each scene, lines that I want to use, that sort of thing. I have to have them with me. Other than that, it’s pretty low-maintenance– just some quiet.
The reading of THE PREDICTION takes place on Thursday November 17th at 7:30pm at ART/NY, 520 Eighth Avenue, 3rd floor. For reservations, please email email@example.com