Claudia Stevens produces "In The Puppeteer's Wake," at the Jepson Theater of the Modlin Center for Performing Arts at the University of Richmond Dec. 4. 

Tale of Flight

In a year that found Americans captivated by the plight of flotilla survivor Elian Gonzalez, local performer Claudia Stevens will debut her multidisciplinary story about another dangerous, oceanic flight to freedom. She will introduce "In The Puppeteer's Wake," at the Jepson Theater of the Modlin Center for Performing Arts at the University of Richmond Dec. 4. "In The Puppeteer's Wake," is a revival of sorts. Through a restaging of a marionette performance of "Hansel and Gretel" she performed on television at age 7, Stevens weaves the tale of her father's and grandfather's shipboard escape from Nazi Europe and the artists' own pilgrimage to her ancestral homeland. "The scenes of the puppet show act as a catalyst," for the sea escape, Stevens says, as Hansel and Gretel become enslaved metaphors for the experiences of European Jews. Stevens' interdisciplinary tapestry is woven of piano performance, lyric vocals and taped accompaniments. Last year, the playwright/performer staged, "A Table Before Me," a similarly mixed-discipline production of her mother's flight to freedom. These familial tales follow "An Evening With Madame F," a historical one-woman drama depicting the actual experience of Fania Fenelon, an Auschwitz inmate forced to perform musical entertainment for the Nazis. This latter work was commissioned by the Richmond Jewish Federation. Stevens, a pianist by trade, turned to "total performance" 12 years ago and began to write her own material 10 years ago. "Doing anything onstage in addition to playing the piano is a difficult task. I wanted to create more satisfying pieces, ones that better displayed my range and capabilities as a pianist and as a vocalist."

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