Playwriting

Mrs. Benjamin. Tips for Modern Living.

A one-woman show with music and a stroll. An immersive production played in three separate rooms.

This biographical drama is based on printed interviews with Mrs. Benjamin, interviews with her surviving contemporaries, and improvisations by the actress Indra Burkovska and Guna Zariņa.

The play was created by invitation from the management of the Hotel Europa Royale, a hotel running in the former mansion owned by Mr. and Mrs. Benjamins, pubiishing magnates who were among the first Latvians to rise above their station to the kind of wealth enjoyed by their colonizers.

 

Excerpt from the translation:

 

 

MRS. BENJAMIN:

 

What a mess.

Didn't you notice?

The ballroom is stuffed with furniture. Somebody moved the Steinway. The Steinway.

A complete and utter mess.

Anton is not in his office. Berta didn't take my coat. My secretary hasn't come with the mail.

And there's a bar in the dining room. Are we having a soirée?

Were you invited?

A.

Mess.

Do you know who I am? Or are you pretending to know?

I'm - as you say in English - Mrs. Benjamin.

In Latvia, they call me Benjamiņa. Emīlija Benjamiņa. [Ben-ya-mi-nya.]

So you do know who I am, after all.

Then why don't you greet me?

I'm Mrs. Benjamin.

Emīlija Benjamiņa.

(spells it out) E-M-I-L-I-J-A BEN-JA-MI-ŅA

 

Scene Two: Voice-over. Train station.

It is the day of deportations, June 1941. MRS. BENJAMIN is forced to crawl into a cattle wagon on the train. She has found the car assigned to women and children. As she crawls, her maid BERTA, tucked away in a far corner, speaks Mrs. Benjamin's thoughts in the microphone.

 

MRS. BENJAMIN:

 

Vai šis beidzot ir sieviešu vagons? Tas ir kāds pārpratums.

 

BERTA:

(speaking Mrs. Benjamin's thoughts)

 

This can't be happening. It's a mistake. They tried to shove me in the train with all the men.They can see I'm not a man. I had to fight to get into the women' s car. Why are there no seats? All these wooden beds. Those aren't beds, they're shelves. Children, why are they taking children? So many children. I can't breathe. (demanding) This train is too full. Too hot. I refuse to stay on this train. (gasps) Oh these times these times.

 

 

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Reviews

MRS. BENJAMIN: What a mess. Didn't you notice? The ballroom is stuffed with furniture. Somebody moved the Steinway. The Steinway. A complete and utter mess. Anton is not in his office. Berta didn't take my coat. My secretary hasn't come with the mail. And there's a bar in the dining room. Are we having a soirée? Were you invited? A. Mess. Do you know who I am? Or are you pretending to know? I'm - as you say in English - Mrs. Benjamin. In Latvia, they call me Benjamiņa. Emīlija Benjamiņa. [Ben-ya-mi-nya.] So you do know who I am, after all. Then why don't you greet me? I'm Mrs. Benjamin. Emīlija Benjamiņa. (spells it out) E-M-I-L-I-J-A BEN-JA-MI-ŅA Scene Two: Voice-over. Train station. It is the day of deportations, June 1941. MRS. BENJAMIN is forced to crawl into a cattle wagon on the train. She has found the car assigned to women and children. As she crawls, her maid BERTA, tucked away in a far corner, speaks Mrs. Benjamin's thoughts in the microphone. MRS. BENJAMIN: Vai šis beidzot ir sieviešu vagons? Tas ir kāds pārpratums. BERTA: (speaking Mrs. Benjamin's thoughts) This can't be happening. It's a mistake. They tried to shove me in the train with all the men.They can see I'm not a man. I had to fight to get into the women' s car. Why are there no seats? All these wooden beds. Those aren't beds, they're shelves. Children, why are they taking children? So many children. I can't breathe. (demanding) This train is too full. Too hot. I refuse to stay on this train. (gasps) Oh these times these times.