LOS ANGELES — Set in Berlin and inspired by a true story, Argyle Road Productions presents the world premiere of a romantic drama by Tania Wisbar that explores the intersection of politics and art during the years between the Treaty of Versailles and the rise of Fascism. The Red Dress opens as a visiting production at the Odyssey Theatre where it runs through Nov. 19
Wisbar’s fictionalized account of her parents’ marriage and their forced divorce by the Nazis begins in 1924 Berlin. Alexandra Schiele (Laura Ligouri) is a famous film actress from a prominent Jewish family who falls in love with a down-on-his-luck World War I vet, Franz Weitrek (J.B. Waterman). Franz is able to parlay his wife’s connections into work as a film director. But when his career takes off making Nazi propaganda films, his wife suddenly becomes a liability. Also in the cast are Rebecca Larsen, Shanti Reinhardt and Dylan Wittrock. Kiff Scholl directs.
Although in real life Wisbar’s mother was not an actress, she was from a well-connected Jewish family that was able to get her father, Frank Wisbar, his start in the German film business. Later, when Frank emigrated to the U.S., he became the producer/director of the first filmed series made for television, Fireside Theater. Tania, who was born in Berlin, came to the U.S. as a baby after her parents divorced. She first learned about her family history decades later.
“In 1999, I discovered an 88-page manuscript my mother wrote as part of a contest for Harvard University,” she explains. “It detailed the continuous harassment she and my father received at the hands of the Gestapo. It was my first and only view of what their marriage was and who they were as a couple in that horrible time.”
After her parents were divorced, Wisbar’s mother was brought to the U.S. by the Quakers. Wisbar didn’t learn of her Jewish heritage until she was in her twenties.
“It’s a huge loss when you grow up without any community,” she says.
In addition to the enormous social and political changes that took place in Germany between 1924 and 1936, those years bridged the history of film — from silents, to black and white, to color. The Red Dress also touches on the Eugenics Movement, which originated in the U.S. but was perfected by the Nazi regime.
The creative team includes set designer Pete Hickock, lighting designer Kelley Finn, projections designer Nick Santiago, sound designer Dave B. Marling, costume designer Shon LeBlanc and casting director Ferne Cassel. The production stage manager is Danny Crisp, and Victoria Watson and Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners produce forArgyle Road Productions.
Tania Wisbar’s novel, “Last Cemetery in Berlin,” was optioned for film by producer Jonathan Sanger. In 2011, Sanger directed a critically acclaimed production of her play Birthday Present 2050, which starred Salome Jens.
The LA Weekly called it
“beautifully detailed and elegiac… GO!”
Tania is the founding president and CEO of B.E.L.I., a day program for developmentally disabled adults with a large dance troupe that performs throughout Los Angeles. For 14 years she was the editor and reporter of a weekly newspaper in Imperial Beach, CA. She holds degrees in Theater Arts, Speech Pathology and Special Education.
Performances of The Red Dress take place Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., through Nov. 19. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, (323) 960-5521 or go to www.Plays411.com/reddress
Details for Calendar Listings
‘The Red Dress’
World premiere of The Red Dress — Set in Berlin and inspired by a true story, Tania Wisbar’s romantic drama explores the intersection of politics and art during the years between the Treaty of Versailles and the rise of Fascism.
• Written by Tania Wisbar
• Directed by Kiff Scholl
• Starring Rebecca Larsen, Laura Liguori, Shanti Reinhardt, J.B. Waterman, Dylan Wittrock
• Produced by Racquel Lehrman and Victoria Watson, Theatre Planners
• Presented by Argyle Road Productions
Performances: through Nov. 19:
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 3, Nov. 10, Nov. 17
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 4, Nov. 11, Nov. 18
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: Nov. 5, Nov. 12, Nov. 19
A visiting production at the
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90025
(323) 960-5521 or www.Plays411.com/reddress
• All performances $30
• Preview: $20