I recently had the opportunity to speak with creator of the new theatrical concert “Iron & Coal” – Jeremy Schonfeld, and Strathmore’s Vice President of Programming – Joi Brown. Jeremy, Joi, and I discussed the upcoming world premiere performance of “Iron & Coal” at the Strathmore performing arts center.
To provide some background, “Iron & Coal” is a remarkable, theatrical concert about a father-son relationship built in the shadow of the Holocaust. This show is inspired by the memoir of Schonfeld’s father, and will feature a rock band, full orchestra, and over 120 adult and youth voices, including some of our very own young Jewish professional community members!
Stacy: How did you begin working on Iron & Coal?
Jeremy: The show was originally based on an album I created in Vienna in 2011. It’s a concept album based around a father and son, and their parallel emotional journeys. It’s a true to life story based on my own father and I. My father wrote his memoir, “Absence of Closure” in 2009. I had initially wanted to musicalize his memoirs, but instead decided to focus on our psychological mindsets, rather than a linear retelling of his stories.
Stacy: Did your father ever hear the album?
Jeremy: I was able to play one of the songs for him from the album just before he passed away. The album came out around the same time that he passed away.
Stacy: Why do you think young adults will be interested in this show?
Jeremy: The show is a mix of harsh, angry, and beautiful with rock and orchestral music that is uplifting, but also has a rawness to it. The piece incorporates multimedia, with a vibe that is Pink Floyd meets the Who’s Tommy. I wanted to take a modern approach to what I do. My hope is that you won’t know exactly where things are going.
Also, I think it’s important that our generation – as children and grandchildren of survivors – is able to explore the emotional journey of the Holocaust.
Joi: This performance does not simply tell the Holocaust story, but rather looks at this topic in a new way. It acknowledges that the next generation has this story in their DNA, that there is a history there, but [the millennial generation] processes it in different ways. It is a piece that captures people’s emotions, while looking at a collective history. The next generation is given the chance to reflect on this. Jeremy’s musical style is very accessible, and draws on artists and performances from Billy Joel to “Rent” to classical choral passages.
Stacy: Why did you decide to bring “Iron and Coal” to Strathmore?
Joi: Typically, we bring artists that have an established touring structure, but this was an opportunity to be direct partners with an artist on a collaborative, community project. Our staff has personally been able to be involved in more of a long term process from working with soloists and casting to creating storyboards.
About the Author: Stacy Miller is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. enjoys entertaining her large Jew crew at her home and is currently the Director of EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program of the Edlavitch DCJCC. She represents all things Northern Virginia as the Founder of NOVA Tribe Series and is a former GatherDCGirl of the Year Runner-Up. Most importantly, she wants you know she LOVES this community a-latke.