Historically the most popular lecture of the series, daughter of Holocaust survivors Claudia Stevens, gives the annual Robert L. Harris Memorial Lecture entitled "An Evening with Madame F," on Tuesday, May 1, from 4-5:40 p.m. in Warren Auditorium in Ives Hall.
Not so much a lecture as it is a performance, Stevens presents a one-woman "total performance" drama using her talents as a singer, actress, and highly accomplished pianist to embody an Auschwitz survivor. Stevens uses music actually sung in the camp and also addresses the issue of using the Holocaust for artistic influence.
A concert pianist by profession, Stevens began developing "An Evening with Madame F" when at 19 years old she learned that her parents were Holocaust survivors. It took almost twenty years and much talking with her parents and grandmother and researching the Holocaust before Stevens felt emotionally ready to perform for an audience.
In the performance Stevens takes on the character of Madame F, a prisoner of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp that is forced to play piano and sing for the entertainment of the Nazis that run the camp. The character is forced to examine the dilemma of choosing to either entertain the killers that are annihilating her family and people or refusing to do so and thus risking her own life.
"An Evening with Madame F" is just one of 15 solo play that Stevens has created and performed as both a musician and monologue artist, many of which continue to be performed around the country at top universities and arts centers. She has had 12 consecutive touring grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, as well as artist in residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Gitameit Art Center in Rangoon, Burma and the RS9 Studio Theatre in Budapest. She has had an appointment as a visiting scholar/artist at Brandeis University's Women's Studies Research Center.
In addition to teaching and performing, Stevens is also co-producer of chamber operas in the San Francisco Bay Area in collaboration with composer Allen Shearer. Their most recent projects include "The Dawn Makers," and the comic opera "A Very Large Mole."
Educated at Vassar College and UC Berkeley before earning a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Boston University, Stevens now works at the College of William and Mary in Virginia as Adjunct Associate Professor of Piano.