Illegal Helpers

In this episode we’re proud to present Illegal Helpers, a documentary play written by German-Italian playwright Maxi Obexer, translated into English by Neil Blackadder, and arranged for audio presentation by Play for Voices. Illegal Helpers was recorded before a live audience at the Czech Center New York in Manhattan, as part of an event called Freedom and Movement that was held in November 2018 to commemorate the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. 

Illegal Helpers, which premiered in Salzburg in 2016 and was named one of the 2016 winners of the German-language Eurodram Prize, explores the current refugee crisis in Europe through the eyes of ordinary citizens. The play is based on verbatim interviews the playwright conducted with Swiss, Austrian, and German residents from all walks of life—doctors, judges, social workers, activists, and students—who took it upon themselves to help refugees. Some of these helpers broke the law multiple times and were charged with providing aid to illegal immigrants, and others could still be subject to legal action at any time. 

The Play for Voices production of Illegal Helpers was directed by Katrin Redfern and performed by JJ Condon, Roberto De Felice, Guenevere Donohue, Mariam Habib, Asta Hansen, Wayne Maugans, Joe Primavera, Francisco Solorzano, Harold Tarr, and Pauline Walsh. Asa Wember recorded, designed, and mixed the audio.

Play for Voices is produced by Matt Fidler, Anne Posten, Katrin Redfern, and Jen Zoble.

About the Author and Translator

Maxi Obexer (author) writes drama, prose, and radio plays, and has made a name for herself in particular with political plays and essays, focusing especially in recent years on the refugee crisis. Her most widely produced play is Das Geisterschiff (The Ghost Ship), which deals with would-be immigrants crossing the Mediterranean. In 2011, Obexer published her first novel, Wenn gefährliche Hunde lachen (When Dangerous Dogs Laugh), a critically acclaimed work that tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who hopes to find a better life in Europe. Obexer’s plays have been produced in many cities, including Basel, Jena, Freiburg, and Stuttgart, and she has held residencies at the Literarisches Colloquium in Berlin and the Akademie Schloss Solitude. Obexer lives in Berlin and South Tyrol.

Neil Blackadder (translator) recently retired as Professor of Theatre at Knox College, where he had taught since 1998. He began translating drama and short fiction in 2002. In 2011, he was awarded a fellowship from the Howard Foundation (Brown University) and a PEN Translation Fund Grant to translate plays by Lukas Bärfuss. He has twice held residencies at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre and Writers Omi at Ledig House. His work has often been supported by the Goethe-Institut, as well as by the Consulate General of Switzerland and the Austrian Cultural Forum. He is the Translations Editor for Another Chicago Magazine and the author of Performing Opposition: Modern Theater and the Scandalized Audience (Praeger, 2003). His short play Dad’s Guns appeared in 24 Gun Control Plays, ed. Caridad Svich and Zac Kline (NoPassport Press, 2013), and has been presented in staged readings in Australia and the US; a film version is in post-production.

For a complete list of Illegal Helpers music credits, please visit Play for Voices.

The complete translation was published by No Man's Land magazine here.

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