Why We Laugh – Upcoming Performances



Why We Laugh – North American premiere in Minneapolis


WWL Fortunes Fool cover image

Interference Arts is pleased to announce that Fortune’s Fool Theatre is presenting the North American premiere of WHY WE LAUGH: A TEREZÍN CABARET, by Kira Obolensky. Interference Arts Artistic Director Craig Harris served as music director, composer and performer in the development of the play, and for the 2011 tour in the Czech Republic, where the group performed in a Terezin attic much like the ghetto context where the original cabaret was performed during WWII. Information about the original Why We Laugh production and tour.


In this adaptation of a cabaret written and performed in 1944 in the Jewish Ghetto at Terezín, characters based on the original Terezín performers encounter “the scholar” from our present. As the performers look forward to the postwar future and the scholar looks back toward their past, we discover why the Terezín prisoners laughed, and what that laughter means to us today.


by Kira Obolensky
Music by Craig Harris
Original cabaret by Felix Porges, Vítězslav Horpatzky, Pavel Weisskopf, and Pavel Stránský
English translation & dramaturgy by Lisa Peschel
Directed by Hayley Finn


Featuring Julie Kurtz, Elise Langer, Ryan Lindberg, and Skyler Nowinski


Music director and accompanist: Craig Harris
Scene and prop design: Irve Dell
Lighting design: Ariel Leaf
Costume design: A. Emily Heaney
Stage manager: Mawrgyn Roper


Performances at Open Eye Figure Theatre, 506 East 24th Street, Minneapolis.
September 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26 at 8:00 pm.
September 13, 20, and 27 at 2:00 pm.
Admission: $20. Seniors, students, and Fringe button holders: $15.
September 17 and 24 are “pay what you can” performances.


Dr. Lisa Peschel, “Translating Terezín”
Peschel, the scholar who discovered the cabaret texts and translated them into English (they are collected in her book Performing Captivity, Performing Escape) will tell the story of her search for the meaning of the text—how, with the aid of survivors, she cracked the code of the slang and inside jokes to capture the prisoners’ unique, resilient sense of humor. A question and answer period will follow. Sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Austrian Studies, Center for Jewish Studies, and Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.


“The Road to Terezín”
Playwright Obolensky, Composer Harris, director Finn, and the actors will talk about the development of Why We Laugh and their experience performing it in Terezín in 2011 for an audience that included survivors of the Ghetto. A question and answer period will follow.


This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund; and by a grant from RIMON: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council.


For more information please visit the Why We Laugh Facebook page.


Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish Music, Literature and Theater

Craig Harris is also performing on August 30, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin at a special full-day event – “Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish Music, Literature and Theater” – shining new light on forgotten works by Jewish artists. This event is the U.S. component of a major international research project led by the University of Leeds, in England. Dr. Lisa Peschel is a co-investigator involved in this research project, and was the catalyst to bring Why We Laugh into fruition as part of the development team including playwright Kira Obolensky, director Hayley Finn, and composer Craig Harris. Part performance and part presentation, Craig Harris and Lisa Peschel created this 45-minute show drawing from the original Laugh With Us cabaret created in 1944, and from the Why We Laugh play. Actors Ryan Lindberg and Sara Richardson join Craig and Lisa on the stage for the show.

In Madison, under the leadership of  Dr. Teryl Dobbs, Chair of Music Education at the UW-Madison, “Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish Music, Literature and Theater” present a rich day of performances and presentations, including:


  • Sound Salon, Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, Exploring Sound Archives with Sherry Mayrent (clarinet) & Henry Sapoznik (tenor guitar);
  • Concert of music by Erwin Schulhoff, Dick Kattenburg, Robert Kahn and Erich Wolfgang Korngold; and
  • Two-act Cabaret Evening “Laugh With Us,” and “Mark Nadler’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself.”


Local partners include the UW-Madison School of Music, Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies; the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, and the Arts Institute at UW-Madison; and Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society.


Events on Sunday, August 30 are free and open to the public. Registration is required for the free events by visiting:  http://eepurl.com/bttx_9