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‘Haven to Home’ Debuts Today at Library

The Library of Congress Live and the Smithsonian’s Discovery Theater will debut the play “Haven to Home: An American Journey” at 10:30 a.m. today in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Thomas Jefferson Building.

The play is part of the exhibit “From Haven to Home: A Library of Congress Exhibition Marking 350 Years of Jewish Life in America,” which opened last month at the Library.

“The play shows that the Jewish story is the story of all of us who immigrated to this country,” said Roberta Gasbarre, the artistic director of Discovery Theater. “We came seeking a haven … and gradually that haven became our home.”

“The performance is intended to offer another vantage point to the material and enhance the exhibit experience of students,” said Monica Mohindra, the Library’s program specialist.

Gasbarre was commissioned by Michael Grunberger and Peggy Pearlstein of the Library’s Hebraic section to write the play.

“Haven to Home” shows Jewish life in America through the eyes of poet Emma Lazarus and songwriter/composer Irving Berlin. It starts with Christopher Columbus’ arrival in America with a Jewish translator and follows through to present day.

Lazarus, played by Becky Peters, leads the audience through the 19th century. The daughter of a Jewish immigrant, Lazarus is known for her poem “The New Colossus,” which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

Berlin, played by Mark Jaster, leads the audience through the 20th century. Berlin, a Russian immigrant, is best known for his songs “God Bless America,” “White Christmas” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

A PowerPoint presentation with images and sound clips from the exhibit is incorporated into the show with the two actors and a curator.

“Every time someone is talking about something, you see the images behind them,” Gasbarre said. “There is an incredible amount of source material from the exhibit as well as from additional research.”

Gasbarre, who has been Discovery Theater’s artistic director since 1999, spent six months writing the play. Three months of that time was used for just research, but she waited to see the final exhibit before finishing the play.

“The truth is much more interesting than fiction,” Gasbarre said. “The stories are there, and there is nothing more riveting.”

Library of Congress Live and Discovery Theater have done many productions together aimed at a younger audience. Recently, they have done shows on Irish immigrants, Leonardo Da Vinci and young people involved in the civil rights movement. The goal of the shows is to highlight one topic to make the information more accessible to the general public.

“The shows are geared for young people … [but] we usually have a lot of happy adults in the audience,” Gasbarre said.

The 45-minute play can also be seen on Oct. 26, Nov. 2, Nov. 18 and Dec. 6. All shows are at 10:30 a.m. Originally, the play was scheduled to debut Sept. 23, but that show was cancelled because of Rosh Hashanah. Admission is free and open to the public.

The play is geared to ages 10 and up, but there is nothing inappropriate for younger children, Audrey Fischer of the Library of Congress said.

However, Gasbarre said young children may find the play too dense with information, because there is no music or dancing.

Library of Congress Live is a division of the Library of Congress that produces free plays in an effort to reach out to school-age children and teach them history in a more exciting manner. The program began in 1998 and became a series of performances in 2002, according to Mohindra. Live has put on five other performances since 2001.

The exhibit is located in the Northwest Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building. It will be on display through Dec. 18 and can be seen from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

For more information, call (202) 707-1071.

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