In Conversation with Romi Kupfer

Creator, performer and producer behind Singing Swallows (23 June – 4 July), Romi Kupfer provides an insight into her process of creating an intimate theatre show that connects young people with those who went through the Holocaust.

Q: How did the idea behind Singing Swallows come about?

A: As Jewish woman and third generation Holocaust survivor I have always felt a responsibility to carry on stories and experiences of the Holocaust from my family and community. As a young person I had heard many Holocaust survivors speak first-hand about their experiences and always found it incredibly powerful. I then started thinking about what would happen to these storytelling experiences once there were no longer survivors here to tell their stories and that’s when I decided to create Singing Swallows. I spent my Honours year at Monash University researching the Holocaust and interviewing four Holocaust survivors for this show. Nothing can ever replace the experience of listening to a Holocaust survivor. I hope that Singing Swallows offers a storytelling experience that holds an emotional and engaging space for young people similar to the experience I have received when listening to survivors.

Q: What is your favourite part about creating theatre for young people?

A: I love creating theatre with and for young people, it is an exciting space to hold where the possibilities are endless. I believe young people deserve more space and platforms in this world and I enjoy creating theatre that opens up these opportunities.

Q: Can you take us through the process of discovering and choosing the stories included in the show?

A: During the development for Singing Swallows I interviewed four Holocaust survivors, Henri Korn, Abe Goldberg, Cesia Goldberg and my grandfather Raymond Kupfer. Two of these survivors were sent to Auschwitz and two of them were in hiding. When deciding what to include in the show, it was a really important process as I wanted to include as much as I could from these survivors’ stories. But much of their experiences are too traumatic to expose to young audiences. There is much hidden within the script that an audience will only know if they have already some knowledge about the Holocaust. It was essential to create a show that is appropriate for young people aged 9+ and I hope that these stories instigate a lifelong interest in knowing more about the people who perished and survived.

Q: Audience members wear individual Bluetooth headphones throughout the show – what role do the headphones play and how do they effect the audience experience?

A: We decided to use wireless headphones to recreate the intimate experience of listening to a survivor’s story, it is as if the voices are talking to you personally.

Q: Can you tell us about the worlds created onstage by the performers using recycled and environmentally sustainable materials? 

A: I decided to use boxes and containers from household items such as toilet paper rolls and muesli bar boxes, to create a familiarity for the young audience and provide a visual cue that contrasted with the stories the audience are listening to. These items also allow the audience to be led on a journey through their imagination of what the actual world may have looked like for the four voices and really connect to the stories whilst still feeling comfortable and safe. This also aligns with my personal commitment to reduce my waste within my artistic practice.

Q: Can you summarise Singing Swallows in 5 words? 

A: Connection, Intergenerational, Intimate, Stories, Remembrance

By Romi Kupfer
23 June – 4 July

Photography credit: Pia Johnson

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