An exploration into the mind of a propagandist… Leni, a play by Sarah Greenman begins previews tonight at Aurora Theatre in Berkeley, imagining filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl looking back on her long, unapologetic life. Director Jon Tracy says the woman who Hitler chose to document the 1934 Nuremberg Rally and the 1936 Berlin Olympics is a fascinating and complex subject.

There’s more information about the play at the Aurora Theatre website.

Jon Tracy says he met Sarah Greenman through a mutual friend a decade ago, and read the play. “It felt like it wasn’t the time, but that time would come. And ten years later, here we are, and a lot of us are really struggling with how we authentically respond to our world, our nation, our administration.” So he suggested it to Artistic Director Tom Ross. The play imagines Riefenstahl at the end of her life being given the opportunity to make one final documentary. “But this documentary is about her life. That she will be able to decide what’s in and what’s out. When you frame, do you frame in the garbage, or do you frame out the garbage? And that’s the very reason the Nazi party accepted her. They were also into cutting out the ‘garbage’ and finding their beauty. And it’s a terrifying connection.” Given her fame (and notoriety) through World War II, it’s astonishing to realize that she lived until 2003. “To her dying day,” Tracy says, “she wasn’t able to make herself fully culpable in one breath. There were ways in which I think that she tried to express pieces of that, but… to 101, she lived the hypocrisy.”

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