Apr. 13th, 2017

snakechahmah: (Cabaret star)

Ezera's creation was inspired by the book Farewell to Berlin, which was the original source material for the movie and Broadway show, Cabaret. And, of course, her story was particularly inspired by the Broadway production. "The musical, set in 1931 Berlin as the Nazis are rising to power, it is based in nightlife at the seedy Kit Kat Klub, and revolves around young American writer Cliff Bradshaw and his relationship with 32-year-old English cabaret performer Sally Bowles (which doesn’t end well as you can imagine--it doesn't end well in our retelling either, but that's a story for another day). Overseeing the action is the Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub. The club serves as a metaphor for ominous political developments in late Weimar Germany." The Cabaret broadway retelling brings this to the fore much more darkly after its second debut in New York and then in London. 

 

This inspires our modern version, in which Ezera descends from a line of cabaret folk (from her father’s side). Her grandfather, a person from history, is "Werner Finck (2 May 1902 – 31 July 1978) who “was a German Kabarett comedian, actor and author. Not politically motivated by his own admission but just a "convinced individualist", he became one of Germany's leading cabaret artists under the conditions of the Nazi suppression after 1933.” He owned the Katalomb Kaberet.

 

Historically,  "Katakombe was closed on 10 May 1935 on the orders of Minister Joseph Goebbels. Finck and his colleagues were interned for six weeks in Esterwegen concentration camp. The Katakombe ensemble took their arrest in good stride, because they still performed despite their imprisonment. They reasoned that before the cabaret closed down they had performed with anxiety due to the fear of incarceration; now they did need not to fear because they were already in prison! It was due to the intervention of his friend, actress Käthe Dorsch, who talked to Goebbels' rival Hermann Göring, that Finck was released on 1 July on condition that he did not work in public for a year."

For the purposes of Ezera’s story and to give her and her family a strong sense of mistrust for political and security establishments for generations, Dorsch’s persuasions are unsuccessful and the ensemble, along with her grandfather, are killed.

Both her father and then Ezera have continue to have trouble with the cops and security apparatus throughout the life of the club, whether in Berlin or New York, for different reasons. Ezera's own tenure at the head of the club brings with it tense relations with the NYPD. 

 

Josef Baader, Ezera’s father (whose surname was changed to Baader when he migrated to the United States), had similar success in his own time, reopened the nightclub, and ran it illegally with some infamy. In our story the club closes permanently slightly after the Berlin Wall falls and a young Ezera and her family are pressured to flee Germany. The cabaret had aways been a seat of political dissent and resistance against the regime organized through the arts (song, dance, comedy). Over the course of many years, dissenters found refuge in the cabaret as well as those escaping the German Stasi, like Emcee (shorter version for Master of Ceremonies), who was saved by Ezera’s father. When they flee, they flee with Emcee in tow and they leave because as the German intelligentsia starts bleeding out overnight, it decides to clean up its loose ends, which happens to include the secrets that Ezera’s father and Emcee have thanks to years in the establishment (Emcee) and through the dissenters that they housed (Josef Baader). They also leave because the Baader family was part of the resistance movement in East Germany. Ezera would have had no idea then as these things were not mentioned to children in fear that they might say something in public that could compromise the family or the resistance. The going-ons at the cabaret were normal things for Ezera as she grew older and a lot of the time the people that came through were just known to her as 'Uncle' or 'Aunt', a term of respect but also a necessary cover to protect everyone. 
 

This is the model that Ezera’s father brings to the United States when he opens another Katakomb Kabaret in NYC wishing for a new start for his family. But sometimes you can’t run from the past. 

 

Ezera’s character is very loosely based on Anita Berber, an interesting but controversial figure in Weimer Germany and Sally Balls, the character from Caberet. Her two other loose influences come from real life, a composite of people that I met when I was an emergency manager, people who had lost everything in terrible disasters, but still stood tall, resilient, determined and filled with gratitude that despite the horror they faced, despite the uncertainty of their future and the need to start over from nothing, they were alive. And a colleague, who didn’t survive a particularly brutal cancer but had such an internal light, amazing personality, resilience and strength within her despite of it.

As a result of her historical backstory and her own backstory, Ezera is meant to be a light in life, a woman that truly shines bright, is out for a good time and has little shame, traits that can be easily misinterpreted as being a result of naiveté when in fact they come from positive choices made as a result of some difficult circumstances. 

July 2017

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