Brooklyn Music School (BMS)
presents a new play by Pianist/Composer Alon Nechushtan, Survival Codes
, on Thursday, June 28, 2018, at 8pm at The Playhouse Theatre at Brooklyn Music School, 126 Felix Street, Brooklyn, NY. Tickets are $20 ($10 for Students and Seniors), and are available at https://www.brooklynmusicschool.org/calendar/2018/4/19/survival-codes
Survival Codes is an expression of hope amidst decades of anti-Semitism and protest. “I wanted to tell a multilayered tale through musical quotation, allusion, counterpoint, pop culture, belting love songs and spiritual synagogue or anything holy and emotional.” So says Alon Nechushtan about his debut theatrical work, an ambitious statement of artistry and social justice.
“On the other hand,” he continues, “I wanted a calculated, cerebral, fragmented zig-zagged, fractured almost gleeful way to present life in the Soviet Union during the 1980s to an audience that might not be fully aware of what that life was like. Going for a story of espionage was a risky choice but I still feel confident that this was the way to tell it.”
Nechushtan is quick to point out that Survival Codes is a work of fiction. But it’s one that resonates with the past and is built from extensive background research and sourcing.
The play, which is directed by James Martinelli and co-produced by the Brooklyn Music School, is built around a story of the unrequited love (but with a hopeful ending!) between a pair of young musicians steeped in the Cold War climate of pre-Perestroika Soviet Union. Despite their differences regarding the time and place for political protest, their shared belief in the power of music remains strong and becomes a lifelong bond.
Embedded within the storyline is the historical atrocities committed against the Jewish people in Stalinist Russia, and, of course, the engrained memories of the Holocaust. Nechushtan draws parallels between the Kristallnacht (generally seen as the beginning of the systematic elimination of Jews in Germany) and the Soviet “night of the dead poets,” in which Stalin erased any signs of resistance to his regime of horrors by eliminating all circles of artist, writers and intellectuals-many of them Jewish.
But also woven into the narrative are more contemporary references and events. Allusions to songwriters Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Billy Joel, to George H.W. Bush and the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, and to the lineage of political protest in the 20th Century inform the story. Kabala, Navajo and I-Ching systems of codification also informed Nechushtan’s writing. Real-world struggles and real-world protest inform the lives depicted.
“I wanted my characters to live in a world where survival isn’t granted,” Nechushtan says. “In several actions or ‘wrong moves’ anyone could be removed from the board-just like in a real life prison or in a culture so deeply based on hierarchy, pen-pushers, compulsorily reading and the prohibition of individual religious or spiritual practice.”
The project took shape during a 2018 Blueprint fellowship Nechustan was granted by the Council of Jewish Émigré Community Organizations.
“I started thinking about this during a retreat in the city of Ossining,” Nechushtan says. “Ossining is known as the home of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility
, one of the most famous prisons in New York State
. My protagonists are based on the stories I heard and read there, in the experiences of important and exemplary dissidents such as Nathan Sharansky, Ida Nudel, Vladimir Slepak, and Andrei Sakharov. I heard so many inspirational stories first in person and later by posting questions and surveys on the social media.”
His research also brought him to older Jewish poets and songwriters whose works show up in Survival Codes.
Primarily a pianist and composer, Nechushtan decided after much deliberation to tackle the script for Survival Codes himself. He wrote the book as well as the songs and incidental music, which will be played by a pit band and choir of Brooklyn Music School students and colleagues, with Nechustan conducting from the piano.
was born in Tel Aviv. His mother had emigrated from Uzbekistan where her family witnessed first-hand the horrors of Stalinism. His father, originally from Transylvania, was the child of Auschwitz survivors. Now a resident of New York City, Nechustan has performed at Carnegie Hall, Jazz @ Lincoln Center, Central Park Summer Stage, The Blue Note
Jazz Club and other esteemed stages across the city and around the world, including tours through China, Israel and the Phillipines. In October, 2015, the Kennedy Center comissioned Nechushtan to contribute a new piece for its Billy Strayhorn Centennial Celebration
. In 2017, the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., commissioned Nechushtan for a program of Thelonious Monk’s lesser known compositions
Director James Martinelli is a recipient of the Yvonne Fanter Award, graduate of AMDA and standing member of The Lambs. Martinelli has worked with luminaries such as Liz Swados, June Lewis, Annette Hunt, Miriam Fond and Luigi. His one man show, Dancing with Mr Cassidy, has won accolades throughout the cabaret community. Martinelli is a certified Physical Therapy Aide with certifications in Dance, Fitness and Health and a graduate of Brooklyn College. Previous directorial work includes Broadway Bound, Miracle on 34th Street, The Gingerbread Lady and Jillian on Her 37th Birthday. He has choreographed throughout the country and continues to take dance class every day.
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The Brooklyn Music School views music and performance as the birthright of all people, an essential way that human beings connect with others and explore their creativity. The study of music has been demonstrated to enhance academic learning and helps to develop discipline and confidence that will serve children well throughout their lives.As part of the vision of reinventing the community music school for the 21st Century, BMS is dedicated to:
* Making high quality musical instruction approachable and affordable to a wide range of students,
* Creating frequent opportunities for performance for our students and cultural enrichment for our community,
* Representing a wide range of musical traditions, including European, African, Middle Eastern, and American to represent the diversity of Brooklyn’s musical talent, and
* Offering a warm and welcoming space for families and individuals to explore new talents and make lasting friendships.