A new play by David Kalal, Miriam Schulz and Michael Simonson
Hanna Arendt loves smoking. It is part of her intellectual process. The image of her constantly with a cigarette in hand is iconic. It is interwoven into the very idea of the European expatriate thinker in the United States after WWII. And she wants to quit. Now. So on the advice of her friend, the famed novelist Mary McCarthy, Arendt arrives at a fashionable hypnotherapist’s office on a rainy day in 1970s New York. In “Hannah Arendt Quits Smoking,” we meet the famed political theorist at a moment of atypical and somewhat uncomfortably American self-improvement. Cigarettes straddle the old world and the new, complicating European and German Jewish identity in the face of American assimilation. But will she be successful? Can Hannah Arendt ultimately quit smoking? Taking its lead from the recent revival of Arendt on both the academic stage as well as her inescapable presence in all discussions on totalitarianism. “Hannah Arendt Quits Smoking” captures the daily challenges of the philosopher’s life – full of surprises and truth, and a journey that comes full circle by giving up those addictions we most love.
“I hate to be so difficult, but I am afraid the truth is that I am.” — Hannah Arendt
Bios: Miriam Schulz holds a Ph.D. in Yiddish Studies from Columbia University and is currently the Ray D. Wolfe Postdoctoral Fellow at the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies and the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto. She currently works on several book projects – among them a study of Soviet Yiddish antifascism and its alternative Holocaust memory regime. She is the co-founder of the EU-funded digital humanities project We Refugees. A Digital Archive on Refugeedom, Past and Present which takes its cue from Hannah Arendt’s 1943 essay “We Refugees.” She has appeared as the voice of Hannah Arendt on NPR’s Throughline episode ‘The Autonomy of Autocracy.’
Michael Simonson is an Archivist of over 20 years experience at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York with an extensive knowledge of Jewish history in German-speaking Europe, including supporting research on the life and thought of Hannah Arendt. Among other things, the Leo Baeck Institute archives holds an original draft of her work Rahel Varhagen:The Life of a Jewess. Michael has also worked in the field of creative writing, including theater work. He is the recipient of writing scholarships and awards from both Normandale Community College in Bloomington, MN, and Hamline University in St. Paul, MN. Most recently, he has worked on the editorial board of The Painted Bride Quarterly.
David Kalal is a multimedia artist whose work has been widely exhibited including at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, the National Gallery of Canada, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, in Trikone Magazine, at the Microwave Festival-Hong Kong, Inside/Out inVienna, Allmänna Galleriet, eKsperim[E]nto in Manila, Frameline Festival, Mix Festival, 3LD Art & Technology Center and Blue Heron Arts Center in New York, the Siddharth Gautam Festivaland Nature Morte Gallery. Translation and transformation run throughout the work part of an ongoing engagement with the ‘difficult nature’ of race, desire, statelessness and hybridity in worlds Old, New and Imagined.
About The KANSAS COLLECTIVE: A queer theater writing project, Kansas Collective uses a model of multiple-minded dramaturgy to decenter the role of individual playwright, as the sole creative force behind a work. KANSAS builds collectively constructed theater that encourages the development and generation of new hybrid works. The collective aims to alter playwright(s) and audience's relationship to personal history and ideology, as part of a practice both relevant and resonant when writing about Hannah Arendt.