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Finding family: Andrea Stolowitz

INTERVIEW. Portland, Oregon-based playwright Andrea Stolowitz searches for answers about her family as she tracks them down in archives and graveyards. "Berlin Diary – Schlüterstraße 27" is on at English Theatre Berlin Oct 6-9 and 12-15.

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Portland, Oregon-based playwright Andrea Stolowitz searches for answers about her family in Berlin Diary – Schlüterstraße 27.

The play is a conversation between a character named “Andrea Stolowitz” and her great-grandfather, Max, as she tracks down her family members in archives and graveyards.

Can you tell us a bit about Berlin Diary?

The play is an epic odyssey that starts in my real life, when I am handed this diary. My great-grandfather fled Berlin in 1936 and left a diary for his grandchildren. Which I didn’t read for a very long time, because it’s half in German with very small script. After a shooting in my house when I lived in North Carolina, I turned back to this question of “Who is my family, and why is it so small?” How is the past the present and the present the past? So I came to Berlin and used this diary to track down the mysteries of the past so I can solve them.

This feels like a very Berlin story.

There’s so much history upon history upon history – and it’s all labelled. Everything. I mean, when you think of everything that has happened in any one spot for the last 900 years… but then, it’s another level when it’s just personal and there are no signs at the addresses that you find.

Why base the play on your own life?

I really don’t like one-person shows or confessional memoirs. All that stuff is really dangerous terrain, because it’s mostly, in my view, bad. And then the Holocaust itself is a whole other thing. It feels like there is nothing you can say about it. And so that’s another writing trap. “Semi-autobiographical”, “one-person show”, “the Holocaust” – these are all “ugh, not that topic” topics. So this is a play about now, and what this historical event means in my life right now: Where is my family? I want a family.

Berlin Diary – Schlüterstraße 27, Oct 6-9, 12-15, 20:00 | English Theater Berlin, Kreuzberg