PlayGround Partners With Roger Grunwald On THE OBLIGATION Premiere

Coming to Potrero Stage this October is Roger Grunwald’s provocative new solo show, THE OBLIGATION, a co-production of The Mitzvah Project and PlayGround. In Roger Grunwald’s THE OBLIGATION a Jewish-American comedian, a survivor, a half-Jewish German soldier and an SS General explore the dark history of their and our world. Through drama and humor, Grunwald explores little-known aspects of The Holocaust and the post-war survivor experience and asks: Who decides what culture, race and ethnicity mean? What is identity? Why do we demonize “the other”? THE OBLIGATION is a dramatic reminder of the importance of heeding the lessons of The Holocaust and of the dangers facing society when we acquiesce in the face of prejudice and hatred in our world.

THE OBLIGATION runs October 12-November 5, Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm. General admission tickets are $30 ($25, previews; $40, opening night, 10/14) and discounts are available for students and groups of 10 or more. Following select performances during the run, Grunwald and representatives from the community will host talk-backs to dialogue with the audience about the play and its meaning in today’s world. To purchase tickets online and for more information, visit http://potrerostage.org/theobligation.

Directed by Nancy Carlin, THE OBLIGATION is a provocative and immersive theatrical experience, conceived and designed to challenge the audience. “One of the characters I’ll be portraying,” says Grunwald, “is a high ranking SS officer directly responsible for more than a million Jewish deaths but largely forgotten to history.” This unrepentant Nazi reminds us how quickly and alarmingly our world is erasing and, in some cases, sanctioning the dark history that produced him.

The play’s central story revolves around the life of Schmuel Berkowicz, a Polish Jew from Bialystok. It’s a story of innocence and boyhood crushes, survival and liberation. In addition to Schmuel and the SS officer, the play’s two other main characters are Christoph Rosenberg, a German half-Jew who was a First Lieutenant in Hitler’s army and The Chorus, a Groucho Marx-esque American-Jewish comedian-cum-social critic who leavens the drama by probing the boundary between the absurd and the horrific.

I wrote the play to make a connection between the prejudice and hatred that the Schmuel character experiences and what is happening now in our politically fractured world. For me, there are few issues of greater concern,” says Grunwald. THE OBLIGATION includes the text and characters from the short play, “The Mitzvah,” co-authored by Roger Grunwald and Annie McGreevey. The original production of “The Mitzvah” was directed by Ms. McGreevey.

Roger Grunwald* (Actor/Playwright), is a veteran theatre, film, TV and voice actor. He has appeared in over 75 stage productions in the United States and Europe and is a co-founder of New York’s Castillo Theatre (www.castillo.org). In collaboration with Annie McGreevey, Roger co-authored and has toured internationally “The Mitzvah” (www.themitzvah.org) a short, Holocaust-themed one-person play. The Mitzvah is now the nucleus of THE OBLIGATION. He co-starred in the premiere episode of the HBO primetime series, VINYL, under the direction of Martin Scorsese and was one of two leads in the short film, “One Good Pitch” that premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. More recently, Roger portrayed Otto Frank in a special series of performances of the play “Anne & Emmett” at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. * Member, Actors’ Equity Association.

Roger, the son of two German Jews – an Auschwitz survivor and a refugee – was born and raised in San Francisco. He attended Town School for Boys (grammar-middle school), Lick Wilmerding High School and received his B.A. from Cal Berkeley. He trained as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and then resided in New York. In the early 1980s Roger and his partner, Bonny Gildin were two of the early builders of the the All Stars Project (www.allstars.org) youth program in New York. It’s now in six cities around the country. He and Ms. Gildin, who is the Executive Director of the All Stars Project Bay Area, currently reside in San Francisco.

Nancy Carlin (Director) is a director, actor, writer, dialect coach, and acting teacher. A former company member of the American Conservatory Theater and associate artist with California Shakespeare Theater, Nancy is a member of PlayGround. She has performed and directed extensively in regional theaters, including A.C.T., Berkeley Repertory Theater, Aurora Theater Company, Shotgun Players, African-American Shakespeare Company, A Traveling Jewish Theater, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Carlin is the co-author of a new musical, Max Understood. A theater arts lecturer with UC Santa Cruz and San Jose State, she holds a BA in comparative literature from Brown University and an MFA in acting from A.C.T. Ms. Carlin is a member of SDC, AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and the Dramatists Guild.

PlayGround, the Bay Area’s leading playwright incubator, provides unique development opportunities for the Bay Area’s best new playwrights, including the monthly Monday Night PlayGround staged reading series, annual PlayGround Festival of New Works, full-length play commissions and support for the production of new plays by local playwrights through the New Play Production Fund. To date, PlayGround has supported over 200 local playwrights in the development and staging of more than 850 original short plays and 71 new full-length plays, with 8 more commissions currently in development. PlayGround recently completed major renovations on its new San Francisco home theatre and reopened the black box performance space as Potrero Stage: PlayGround Center for New Plays in February with The Potrero Nuevo Project. The theatre serves as home for some of the Bay Area’s leading new play developers and producers, including PlayGround, Crowded Fire, Golden Thread, Playwrights Foundation, and Virago Theatre Company, among others. For more information, visit http://playground-sf.org.