A Note from the Dramaturg, Adrien-Alice Hansel

2.5 Minute Ride is, at its core, a play about failure.

It’s 1996. Lisa has spent the last few years working on a video tape about her father’s story. Walter Kron was born in a central Germany, son to the cantor and schoolmaster of the Jewish school. In 1937, at 15, he was evacuated to the United States. His parents were killed in Auschwitz seven years later. Lisa and her father took a trip to Auschwitz in the early 1990s. Convinced that her father’s stories could be material for something, Lisa hired a videographer friend to film some of his stories—and join her family’s annual trip to Cedar Point amusement park. And she’s been weaving the footage of these trips and stories together.

Except…the video isn’t working. Six years into the process, it’s not at all what she’s hoping for. So, tonight Lisa has rented a theatre, brought slides and some camcorders, and is talking through what she’s got, hoping to reach some clarity.

“In this age of Holocaust museums and memorials we have developed a way of responding to this most horrible of tragedies that, in fact, protects us from ever approaching its horror,” playwright Lisa Kron says. In creating a play about her own father’s life (she originated the role, but it has been widely produced with other actors), Kron hoped to create something that helped approximate what it might have been like to experience history as it unfolded, without the moral assurance of hindsight.

From the assumption of failure, Kron’s 2.5 Minute Ride builds a funny and disorienting look at her place in her family’s history, and her family’s place in the stories she tells about herself. The roller coaster that gives the play its title is the Mean Streak, a wooden roller coaster whose creaking ride Lisa thinks is actually killing her father. It isn’t; he thinks it’s the best one. But this mix of fear and thrill is one of Kron’s primary strategies to capture sense of the horror and joy that defined her father’s life. Stories shift between looking for food in Poland, nearly throttling her father at the amusement park, coming face-to-face with the hair and eyeglasses of people murdered in Auschwitz.

Written as a play about a failed film, director Joanie Schultz’s streaming production takes advantage of the technology of the 1990s—some scenes are recorded through Lisa’s camcorders, others from contemporary-quality technology. These cameras both isolate Lisa from an audience and bring the audience access to the intimate life of an artist, as both daughter and performer struggle to tell the truth without clinging to reference or assurance. Although Lisa may not neatly summarize the story of her father or the experience of living through 70 years of the 20th century, she creates small but honest revelations that strive, in the end, to ring true.

—Adrien-Alice Hansel