Based on a True Story: Movies, Plays, & a Concert & a Book

Based a true story. That’s been the tagline of much of the culture I’ve either seen or read lately.

Walking with the Enemy  claims to be less based and more “inspired” by the life of Pinchas Tibor Rosenbaum, a young Hungarian in Budapest who dons a dead German SS officer’s uniform and proceeds to save Jews from deportation during World War II. Entertaining with romance and a happy ending, the film is a bit too schmaltzy with incredulous, contrived situations.  Unknown

In The Railway Man, Colin Firth plays Eric Lomax, a British Army officer tortured by a Japanese interogrator while imprisoned during World War II. Long before the emotional and psychological effect of war became acknwoledted as post-traumatic stress syndrome, soldiers were sent home and left to fend for themselves. Lomax, traumatized by his captor, promises a fellow soldier to seek revenge after learning the Japanese officer is alive, having turned the labor camp into a tourist attraction. I won’t spoil what happens when Lomax confronts his nemesis. This film is based on Lomax’s autobiography.

Both films are graphic enough at times to have me shielding my eyes a few times. Yet, it’s history being revealed. And as more survivors from that time period die, it’s important to remember and learn.

I’m on a Colum McCann reading kick and finished Dancer, his novel based on the life of Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev. Told from various characters perspectives, the story brings to life the Soviet-era politics and living conditions that led the famous dancer to defect, leaving his family and country. Fascinating.

On stage in New York City, I’ve seen plays that portray the early 1960’s and what occurred in the nation. All the Way by Robert Schenkkan re-enacts the tense time following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy that put then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson into the Oval Office and threw a huge amount of problems into his lap, particularly Civil Rights and Vietnam. The play reveals the backroom politics and power play that led to the signing of the Civil Rights Act. Twenty actors assume various roles, including appearances by J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Governor George Wallace. Superb.

Satchmo at the Waldorf by Terry Teachout takes place one evening near the end of Louis Armstrong’s life, after a performance at the famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel. One actor plays several roles, quickly morphing in accent and demeanor, playing Armstrong, his Jewish agent, others in the jazz world and more. Single actor plays can be difficult, and 90 minutes seemed too long for this role where the character’s only movements were back and forth across the stage. Still, the history shared is a reminder of the prejudice against black performers—unable to stay in hotels and eat at restaurants as other performers in their own bands and criticism from their own culture that they were becoming “white.” A few fun facts—his rendition of “Hello Dolly,” surpassed The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love,” to become the number one single sold on May 9, 1964. A poignant portrait of an artist who contributed so much to American music.

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has dedicated its entire season to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In a concert that included Beethoven’s Leonore Overture, Brahms’ First Symphony and “From the Mountaintop”- a commissioned clarinet concerto by Richard Danielpour, the theme of triumph over adversity prevailed.

And speaking of based on a true story, my play, “The Shabbos List” has been accepted into a theater festival and will run for three performances in July in a small theater in the Washington Heights neighborhood of NYC. Soon I’ll be in the midst of production! While the idea certainly grew from my own life, I embellished and imagined to write the play.  SHAB LIST POSTCARD17

So what have you seen or read that’s “based on a true story?”







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24 Responses to Based on a True Story: Movies, Plays, & a Concert & a Book

  1. You are super busy! Congratulations on your play. Wish I were closer to NYC…I am just getting around to reading the Ken Follett books…. right now reading Fall of the Giants…. historical fiction is my favorite. Learning a few things. I like books who show the relationships of the wealthy and the poor.


  2. Congratulations on your play! So exciting! 🙂


  3. I’m reading “The Dreamcatcher” by Margaret Salinger, JR Salinger’s daughter. What is so interesting to me is that the first 75 pages are about anti-semitism, the quota systems in colleges, and World War 2. Salinger suffered from what was called “Battle Fatigue,” now known as post traumatic stress.

    Before the Salinger biography I read the biography of Sonia Sotomayor; interesting how a poor girl from Puerto Rico rose to become a justice of the supreme court.

    Last night we thought we were going to a movie to make us laugh, and signed into the new Woody Allen film. In one word of advice, DON’T!

    Mazel Tov of your wonderful achievement; your new play is a very exciting feat!


  4. Thanks– and I’m going to get the Salinger from the library. I read some of the SS bio and couldn’t get into it. And I’ve heard that film is atrocious – at least the language. Thanks for the heads up.


  5. OmaOrBubby says:

    Hi! Congrats on your play! I love the concept and hope it will someday travel from NY to LA!

    Recently I saw “Philomena.” Based on a true story, I discovered some themes for life. Perseverance, hope, religious convictions, and the unbelievable power of forgiveness were only a few. We all have times in lives when we need to forgive and let go. It takes a lot of courage but it helps us the most.


  6. Loved Philomena, love Judi Dench. Great themes for sure.


  7. Judy says:

    So exciting about your play, Lisa. Barbara and I even discussed coming to NY to see it but there are conflicts with the timing. Best of luck and a huge congrats!


  8. No worries- maybe it will travel… any JCC’s or temples in the area that might be interested?


  9. joan turk says:

    Hi Lisa, Congratulations on the play.  Please let me the details of dates and tickets.  I wouldn’t miss it.



  10. susanissima says:

    Congratulations on your play, Lisa! How wonderful it must be to live in an area so rich in creativity, including your own! We call Bellingham “The City of Subdued Excitement,” for good reason, and here in Fairbanks the cultural event for the weekend is Community Clean Up of winter trash. Ladies, put on your gloves! Of course, we can always read and I thank you for the reviews. I’m re-reading all of Gabriel García Márquez’ novels and short stories this summer and then I’ll branch out. 🙂


  11. Oh, Lisa, you must be so excited to have your play in production. I hope you are going to make a video of it. Congratulations!
    I appreciate your take on these other books and movies. I enjoy Colin Firth, but thought the movie might be too intense or depressing, but I think I will have to go see it now, and I think I’d also like to see Walking With the Enemy. I find books and movies based on true stories especially interesting.


  12. Pingback: Based on a True Story: Movies, Plays, & a Concert & a Book | Tinseltown Times

  13. I will have to have it videoed as it’s a competition and the judges may need to see it again. Since I have 5 people in the cast , it’s doubtful I’ll be able to reassemble them weeks after the performance. Not sure the quality of the video though. I’ll be posting more soon- it will be a great way to document the process!


  14. ShimonZ says:

    Very interesting to read a bit about your play, the shabbos list. I looked for more details, a review or critique, but wasn’t able to find such material by way of the internet. Best wishes for a very successful performance.


  15. It hasn’t been produced yet– just finished writing after being in a playwriting workshop for 1 1/2 years- loosely based on my experiences with my sons.


  16. I was thinking of the similarity between “Philomena” and “The Railway Man” Why bother with fiction when there are amazing true stories. you are so clever, this post to announce your own play. Can’t wait to see it.


  17. Thanks, mom. Your true stories are some of the best!


  18. I’m in the middle of The Rent Collector, based on a true story, set in the infamous dumps of Cambodia. Really powerful. SO excited for you and your play, Lisa!! This is truly great news, Lisa! Wish I could be there to see it.


  19. Thanks! Wish you could come too!


  20. Pingback: 50 Things We’re Grateful For: Bloggers Unite! | cyclingrandma

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