The Thirst

A recording of a performance of a one-woman show written and performed by Donna Blue Lachman about her family and her search for her Jewish faith and identity.

00:00Copy video clip URL Black.

00:20Copy video clip URL Close-up of the playbill for “The Thirst: A New Show For Jew and Clarinet” by Donna Blue Lachman.

01:13Copy video clip URL An empty stage, with audience noise. Clarinet music starts playing.

02:00Copy video clip URL Lachman tells the story of a Jewish mystic who would go to a place in the forest to light a fire and pray. As the generations passed, people lost the place in the forest, lost the ability to light the fire, and lost the prayers. The story is all that remains.

03:14Copy video clip URL Tells about performing in Berlin and deciding to visit Prague. The Germans tell her she needs to visit the ancient Jewish cemetery in the Jewish ghetto in Prague. The cemetery is packed with layers of graves because the ghetto was forbidden to expand. People have placed pieces of papers with prayers on them in the stones.

06:51Copy video clip URL “What do any of us really believe in anymore?” She says she addressed her prayer to the dead.

07:30Copy video clip URL Old (dark) video footage plays on a screen, while Lachman narrates about her grandparents from Russia. They go on a tour of Europe in 1936, just as the Nazis are coming to power, and as Stalin has already killed millions. “They’ve always hated the Jews, why should now be any different?”

10:03Copy video clip URL “My ancestors… they were the lucky ones.” Lachman talks about the loss of rituals and Torah learning that bound families together. “Sometimes I wish I could talk to my great-grandmother Zelda. Sometimes I wish I could ask her to help me remember.”

11:08Copy video clip URL She sits in a rocking chair and takes on the role of her great-grandmother. “What did we know? We were Jews. Who knew from knowing?”

12:56Copy video clip URL Lachman (as her great-grandmother) talks about how she came to be so bitter. “God left me with a good kopf on my shoulder, but he never gave me the chance to use it.” She talks about the Nazis lining everyone in the town up and shooting them.

14:24Copy video clip URL “I don’t remember being raised Jewish.” But she remembers a lot of superstition.

16:28Copy video clip URL Everyone she knew growing up was Jewish. Until one day she was invited to a birthday party, and she saw a picture of a bloody crucifixion scene.

18:12Copy video clip URL She talks about blood and DNA. She talks about the OJ Simpson trial, and compares it to the trial of Adolf Eichmann. That, she says, was the trial of the century. She remembers asking “Who’s Eichmann?” and discovering that the Jews were killed by the Germans, and trying to understand what it meant to be Jewish or German.

20:54Copy video clip URL She talks about wanting to change her appearance to look less Jewish in high school.

22:38Copy video clip URL A surfer tells her “I know you’re not a Jew because you don’t have horns” and she’s astonished.

23:15Copy video clip URL She plays some clarinet. The surfer asks her family about their being Jewish. Her father tells him that they are, in fact, Jewish. Her father tells her stories of “their people” and their persecution throughout history. “What did we do wrong, Dad?”

25:47Copy video clip URL “These days I would never deny that I’m a Jew… with a horn.” More clarinet playing.

26:40Copy video clip URL She continues to play clarinet, while narrating more dark video footage of her family.

28:05Copy video clip URL “Her name was Florence. One of the most beautiful names in any language.” She talks about her grandmother’s death, and her feeling of responsibility for it. She talks about visiting the grave in the cemetery.

31:39Copy video clip URL She recalls how her grandmother would light the candles for Shabbas. She sets up the candles. This was how they knew they were Jewish. No one remembered the prayers after she died. “This exile is not about the dead, it’s about the living.”

32:56Copy video clip URL She remembers her grandfather missing his wife. She plays out a conversation between her and her grandfather, acting both roles.

34:46Copy video clip URL “Sometimes I think Jews don’t remember, because we were never allowed to own land.”

37:41Copy video clip URL She visits a seer who tells her she’s not supposed to own her own land. In a rage, she paints giant blue Stars of David on the cabin she’s being driven from.

38:40Copy video clip URL She plays the clarinet while wreathed in shadows.

39:05Copy video clip URL She eventually got her own land in Michigan. She fantasizes about dying on her own land, alone.

42:25Copy video clip URL She talks about how she was stung by a bee and thought she was dying. She pantomimes crawling for the phone and having a heart attack. She prays not to die alone. “Everything is so surreal when you’re dying.” Now she’s terrified of her own land.

46:00Copy video clip URL Her husband encourages her to relax. But everywhere she looks she sees bees. “So we decide to do what needs to be done… we pour huge cans of gasoline down their holes and light matches.”

47:09Copy video clip URL More clarinet-playing.

48:30Copy video clip URL “When I was a kid, I thought that when people died they went to cemeteries and lived under the ground.” She looks at pictures of her grandmother’s life and imagines her waiting under the earth for her family to join her. “A life built together must somewhere still exist.”

51:30Copy video clip URL In the person of her grandmother, telling the real reason they put the red ribbon on her sister, to protect against the evil eye taking notice that five generations of the family were alive. She asks her grandmother what she said to her husband as she lay dying. “After you died… we forgot how to pray.” “Nothing sacred? You’re not paying attention. God is right here, only he’s hidden. It’s our job to uncover him.”

55:07Copy video clip URL “You say the prayers and I’ll pour the wine.” She celebrates Shabbas with her grandmother, while clarinet music plays in the background. More video of her family, shot by her grandfather.

56:55Copy video clip URL The show ends. The audience applauds and Lachman takes her bows. the audience files out and the lights come up. The screen displays a message: “Let us travel and be happy while we have each other. Who knows if we shall meet in the next world. Who knows whether in the next world Paradise will be as beautiful as these Islands.”



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