Mona Golabek takes on the role of her mother, Lisa Jura, in the one-woman show The Pianist of Willesden Lane which opens at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley tomorrow night. It tells the story, accompanied by piano, of Jura’s experience as part of the Kindertransport, the attempt to rescue Jewish children during the Holocaust by taking them to the (comparative) safety of England.
There’s more information about the show at the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley website.
Mona Golabek’s show is based on the book of the same title that she wrote, which researched and fleshed out the cryptic anecdotes her mother used to tell her during piano lessons. “She always told me that each piece of music tells a story,” Golabek says. “We’d be in a Beethoven sonata, out of nowhere, as she was explaining to me about fortissimo and pianissimo, she would say, ‘Well, did I ever tell you the time that Johnny King Kong read poetry to me at nighttime when the bombs came down?’ And I thought, who is Johnny King Kong? Before I got an answer, we’d go right back into another passage, maybe we would switch to a Chopin Nocturne, and out of nowhere, she would say, ‘well, what about when Aaron whistled the Grieg Piano Concerto to me?'”
It was while she was on a book tour, which often included performances of some of the works that are mentioned in the stories, that the idea of staging a show that would dramatize them. In the years since the book’s publication, Golabek has been active in working with schools that read the book, and then see the staged performance, showing how music both saved her mother’s life, and helped others. The role individual pieces played in her life are depicted in the play. “Clair de Lune played in her heart and soul as she was on the Kindertransport, the rescue train that brought her [from Vienna] to England. And she would describe to me in the piano lessons how she saw the moonlight coming through the turning of the windmills.”