Monday, September 25, 2006


On Saturday we went to see the amazing one-woman play “Lilia!” at Pacific Theatre.

It is the story of Lilia Skala (who played the nun in "Lilies of the Field") – in a play written and acted by her granddaughter Libby Skala.

Libby’s write-up in the program begins:

“As a child, I listened for hours as my grandmother told remarkable stories of her life, always emphasizing that with God all things are possible. She had become the first female architect in Austria, and then a stage star in Max Reinhardt’s theatre, touring with him and other theatre companies throughout Europe.

In 1939 she was forced to flee Austria from Hitler’s onslaught, and became a political refugee in America. She arrived in new York penniless and without knowledge of the English language. There she began attending night school while working in a zipper factory during the day. Convinced that she had a God-given talent to share with the world, within two years she was cast in her first Broadway show. For the next five decades, her career in the theatre, film and television flourished."

The performance was about 75 minutes and delivered without intermission. It was fascinating to watch this young woman as she morphed from her child-, to teen-, to adult-self and, for long periods, into her grandmother with her heavy germanic speech (I loved how she pronounced 'Lilia' - LEE-lya), indomitable will, aura of nobility while at the same time seeming as flighty and capricious as some 'artistes' I know.

From the play’s first moments – a recording of the actual Lilia, getting the phone call telling her of "Lilies of the Field"’s Oscar nomination – to the final scene – another phone call where we discover that Libby is not betraying her grandmother’s secrets and that she actually challenged Libby to write this play (“Write a part for me,” she said. “Because Hollywood writers – they don’t know what to do with an old woman with an accent. They think we love to scrub floors and have ten children. But you could do something interesting. Do it. Write a part for me. DO IT! It’s not too late.”) -- I was immersed in the story and the performance.

If you’re in the area, go see it. "Lilia" continues at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver until October 7th.

Other reviews of the play are here.


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