THE PILES: An Excerpt from 'The Experience of a Young Woman in Hitler's Europe'

The following is a poetic excerpt from a play I wrote entitled ‘The Experience of a Young Woman in Hitler’s Europe.’ The play revolves around three women’s stories from growing up in the midst of the Holocaust. This excerpt is spoken by the narrator, when she introduces the physical piles that are on stage. The piles serve as a kind of character of their own throughout the play; they are set pieces, props, and also represent the people who perished during the genocide.

Piles of shoes

Piles of hair

Piles of pots, pans -

I couldn’t help but to stare

At the piles.

Piles of memories

Of lives lived

Of unrealized dreams

The piling of questions

That have not-good-enough answers

How could this happen?

Have we learned? 

Will we remember?

A lack of piles of response.

An abundance of recovered notes,

Letters from the otherwise forgotten

Uncovered underneath the rotten piles of memory.


This week’s piece is an article that I wrote for the Cincinnati Enquirer in anticipation of ‘Hamilton’ star Renée Elise Goldsberry coming to town. And, for context, I’d like to share with you all just how much my conversation with Renée meant to me, and why I feel so blessed to be a professional storyteller.

The day that Renée called, I was not in a good place - mentally, emotionally. I deal with a lot of sad, vulgar, heartbreaking stories every day as a breaking news reporter. I am reminded on a daily basis just how cruel we can be towards one another. It’s not always enough to break me down, but that particular day had been rough.

Renée called me at around 8 p.m. as I was in the middle of writing up an article on a man who is accused of child rape. I picked up my phone, stepped away from my desk and went into a quiet room. I greeted Renée and was immediately met by her warm, kind voice. I could physically feel myself begin to heal from a long day as she talked to me about her love of music and performance, two of my own passions that have sat on the back burner as of late.

Towards the end of the interview, I asked Renée what she thinks will be next in her already accomplished career.

This was her response:

“As long as somebody will invite me, I will come to do this. Because it really is a platform to remind us about how good we are. We really are a wonderful species. We’ve created so many things, and one of the most amazing things is music. And it can really save the world and so I’m doing my very, very, very small part.”

I’m not sure if she could hear me over the phone - if she did, she didn’t mention it - but I let out a soft sob at this statement. The dichotomy of her words with the day I’d had overwhelmed my emotions completely. We soon ended the interview and I sat alone for a few more moments, trying to digest what had happened and why I was crying.

I’m still processing it all, actually. I think I will be for a while.

The one thing I do know is that I am beyond lucky to do this work. Telling these stories - all of them - keeps me humble, curious, empathetic and always wanting more. Even on the hardest days, I’m reminded of the good. So thank you, Renée.

Link to the story: 'Hamilton' star calls CSO 'one of the most amazing orchestras in the world'