Mona Golabek has truly followed in the footsteps of her mother. Golabek, an accomplished concert pianist, stars in The Pianist of Willesden Lane, a play about her mother, Lisa Jura, a young Jewish pianist rescued by the Kindertransport. Golabek wrote the book on which the play is based, and she started a foundation to call attention to her mother’s story. The show is being presented by ArtsEmerson from November 23 – December 16, 2012, at The Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre at the Paramont Center.
What is it like playing your mother?
Playing my mother was incredibly challenging. I relived my entire life with her, remembering so many poignant moments in the piano lessons with her, all the stories she spun, and the way she spun them. That Viennese/English accent and her “old world’ charm. I worked at inhabiting her “skin,” so to speak. I had to relive all her struggles, her losses, and her triumphs. Each night was very emotional for me…given that it was my own mother. But I always felt an incredible privilege walking out for each show–getting the opportunity to share her with yet a new audience.
You established a foundation to tell your mother’s story to teachers and students. How much do students across the country know about what happened during the Holocaust?
That’s difficult for me to answer as I am not sure how mandatory teaching the Holocaust is in schools. I can tell you from my travels and city-wide reads that lots of students didn’t know about the Kindertransport, the train that rescued 10,000 Jewish children and brought them to safety in England. Most of the students who read the book were not familiar with what happened. However, each student responded powerfully to the universal themes of “man’s inhumanity to man” and the horrors of the Holocaust. They related it to world events today. All the students responded to Lisa’s struggle to survive through incredible losses, holding on to her music to give her strength through one of the darkest periods in history.
I’ve heard from other children of survivors that they try so hard to achieve so much because they feel they have to “make up” for all the relatives who died in the Holocaust. Do you find that to be true about yourself?
Absolutely! I think that is so true. All of us feel this incredible “weight” on our shoulders–to make something of our lives, to stand up and make a difference somehow, to take away the pain our parents held in their hearts.
Who would you want to play your mother/you in the movie version, other than yourself, of course!
Ha ha! I can’t imagine playing a role in the movie. I will leave that to the very talented young actors out there! There are such wonderful young actresses, from Emma Watson to Hailee Steinfield. Keep your fingers crossed!
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