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Setting The Holocaust to Stage
By Avishay Artsy on Thursday, May 7, 2009.


Tonight, high school students in Lexington, Massachusetts are debuting a play they’ve written themselves. It's called "With the Needle that Sings in her Heart," and it’s about Anne Frank’s final months at the Bergen-Belsen death camp in Germany. Faced with horror and brutality, she escapes into a world where prisoners and Nazi officers suddenly become circus performers.

The play came together with the help of musician Amanda Palmer, a Lexington High alum who acted in several plays under the guidance of theater director Steven Bogart. Palmer went on to form The Dresden Dolls, a band she describes as “Brechtian punk cabaret.”

The play was inspired by the underground rock album “In the Aeroplane Over The Sea,” released in 1998 by a then-little known band called Neutral Milk Hotel. The group was part of a collective of musicians living in Athens, Georgia and trying to sound like nothing else out there. Strange, dreamlike lyrics reference a two-headed boy, the king of carrot flowers, and Anne Frank, though never by name. The students spent several weeks with the music, creating sculptures and drawings inspired by the lyrics, and then began improvising scenes. It’s a surreal production about the power of imagination and the transformative process of creation. Word of Mouth producer Avishay Artsy visited the rehearsals, and brings us this report.