Görlitzer Park, Berlin, Germany
August 2013

Book, Concept & Direction:
SHAKESPEARE IM PARK BERLIN

In 1867, Henry Bethel Strousberg, Prussian rail tycoon and parliamentarian, built the Görlitzer Bahnhof. Nearly a century later it was leveled by an Ally bomb. What remained was an abandoned landscape that developed slowly into a vibrant convergence point for Berlin’s most ethnically diverse neighborhood. Virtually unknown today, Bethel was a mythological figure in his time. Hailed as a revolutionary of rail and heavy industry, as well as a forerunner of modern business practice, Bethel was later derailed by late 19th century antisemitism and financial complications. He died in Berlin, impoverished and alone.

In August 2013, SHAKESPEARE IM PARK BERLIN premiered its new, multilingual trilogy about Bethel’s rise and fall. Taken together, and in any order, the trilogy encompassed a cycloramic display of historical fact and fictional dialogue, puppet shows and choreographic arrangements, Lehrstück and philosophical children’s television, depression era migrants and abstract capital, object–based excavation and a Choo Choo Sham performed on one grand baby piano! Layer by layer, note for note, pickle barrel by pickle barrel, four railway workers maneuvered King Bethel through hazardous terrain and epic ordeals and constructed a new rail–line-cum-archaeological-journey through the Spreewald, from Görli to Görlitz and back again.

Historical fact is skillfully mingled with self-knit fictions. The often mercurial songs and narrative texts about labor conditions, entrepreneurship, and fights with Prussian bureaucracy radiate with refined poetry.

Christian Rakow, Berliner Zeitung

Ensemble: Katrin Beushausen, Maxwell Flaum, Alberto Di Gennaro, Brandon Woolf

Music: Leigh Jonathan Thomas & SHAKESPEARE IM PARK BERLIN
Costume Design: Arianne Vitale Cardoso
Assistant Costume Design: Marcia Dossin
Press & Public Relations: Sarah Rosenau
Photography: Lisa Merk & Mark von Wardenburg

Lyrics to “THE CHOO CHOO SHAM”

Baruch wandered into London
Without a Mark.
Dreaming he’d become
A corporate shark.
Fresh direct out of the Shtetl
Quickly changed his name to Bethel
Left behind the menorahs and the Quark.
But a merchant’s life on Newgate Street
Could not make his life replete
So he studied hard and hatched a ploy
Posing as a simple errand boy.
On a big old ship he hitched a ride
Left those bankers high and dry
Thought he’d give the USA a try
His loving bride would stay behind.

See the glory of
(This is the story of the)
The choo choo sham
(The choo choo sham)

Back in Berlin town the tills
Began to ring
Thanks to that Jew they called
The “Railroad King.”
Circumventing Prussian legislation
Chummy with Bismarck’s administration
He opened a new train line every spring.
With a crew of British financiers
And a crafty dealing with arrears
It seemed that Bethel’s brilliant “system”
Would trump Manchester capitalism.
He had cutting edge technology
Gastarbeiter communities
An integration strategy
He even earned a Ph.D.

See the glory of
(This is the story of the)
The choo choo sham
(The choo choo sham)

In a far off Moscow prison cell
He cried
Bethel spread himself too thin
And then he lied.
Though Engels dubbed him the next Kaiser
The world had now come to despise him
Fortune’s gone, but worse, he lost his pride.
Stock prices fell and markets crashed
In the war with France all hopes were dashed.
Public scandal demanded he retire
Before too long he would expire.
His last days were lived in penury
Repentance for his treachery
In the end there would be no more glitz for
Doctor Rittergutbesitzer.

See the glory of
(This is the story of the)
The choo choo sham
(The choo choo sham)