True Tales of Nazi Murder, Chavez-Era Oppression Fuel 'The Golem of Havana'

Jan 26, 2016

In Jewish folklore, a golem is a creature fashioned of clay and animated by magic.  To Michel Hausmann, the golem is less a Yiddisha Frankenstein's monster than a dark knight.

“It’s a Jewish Superman,” says Hausmann. “It’s the ancestor of all superheroes.  When you don’t have the strength to fight your enemies, you create this creature to do the fighting for you.”

But what happens after it defeats your enemies?

“Then YOU become the enemy,” posits Hausmann.

And that’s why the 34-year-old Venezuelan-born playwright-director considers the creature a perfect metaphor for the Cuban revolution of the late 1950’s.  The musical “The Golem of Havana,” directed by Hausmann and with a book written by him, revolves around a Jewish family living in pre-revolutionary Cuba in 1958. The show examines themes of injustice, exile and redemption.

In Hausmann’s family history, the monsters were real. Most notably, in the experience of his maternal grandmother, a Holocaust survivor (now aged 98).  According to Hausmann, in 1944 she and her family were betrayed by neighbors in their Hungarian village and were handed over to the Nazis. They were sent to Auschwitz, where nearly all of her family perished.

Michel Hausmann, playwright-director of 'The Golem of Havana.'
Credit Miami New Drama

And Hausmann himself is no stranger to oppression.  While directing a 2009 production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in his native Venezuela, the government-funded orchestra pulled out at the last minute, declaring they wouldn’t participate in a show that included “Jewish content.”  A year later, according to Hausmann, a dispute with the Venezuelan government over sponsorship of another show led to the theater being tear-gassed by government assailants. It was the incident that Hausmann says drove him out of the country.

“The Golem of Havana” is the inaugural work of Miami New Drama, a company co-founded by Hausmann within a year of arriving in Miami. His vision for the new company is a performance space where artists from different cultures can work collaboratively.

“If you look at the type of work that’s being produced [in Miami], it’s fantastic.  But you see a segregation between Anglo theater and Hispanic theater,” says Hausmann. “We want to be a company that bridges that.”

IF YOU GO

What: “The Golem of Havana”

When:  Thursday-Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m. through Feb. 14

Where: Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach

More Info:  miaminewdrama.org