Beyond Me, an original multimedia musical written and performed
by Suzanne Tanner, was inspired by Rachel Goldman Miller’s life
When Suzanne Tanner met Rachel Goldman Miller, both women embarked on what Tanner calls a “destined” journey. One stop along the way: the St. Louis performance of Beyond Me: A Song Cycle in the Key of Survival, which celebrates St. Louisan Miller’s life through a musical theater piece created and performed by Tanner. The Holocaust Museum and Learning Center and the Jewish Community Center will present the 90-minute multimedia biography live Sunday, November 17 at 2 pm in the Carl & Helene Mirowitz Performing Arts Center at the Jewish Community Center.
Tanner worked with Miller’s son, Mark, at Warner Brothers. When Mark died of AIDS, Tanner got a group of co-workers together to make a panel for Mark for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Miller came to one of their sewing sessions wearing a red ribbon pinned over a Star of David on her lapel. The pin and Miller’s story of losing 93 members of her family, including her mother, sister and brothers, in the Holocaust inspired Tanner to write a song, The Survivor. The song includes the line, “I once wore stars, yellow for David, now six points of sorrow I’ll borrow to bear red ribbons for Mark.”
The first time she heard the song, Miller was astounded. “My mouth dropped,” says Miller. “I gave Suzanne my story, and she interpreted it into a song. She is very talented.” The song became the cornerstone for Beyond Me, which Tanner calls “a musical memorial with universal elements.” The piece debuted to a full house in Los Angeles 10 years ago in honor of Miller’s 70th birthday.
Featuring musical visual and physical elements, Beyond Me interweaves personal testimony, dramatic song, documentary footage and contemporary art into a tapestry of emotion and understanding. “I didn’t want simply to write a traditional history piece, but a psychological exploration of the suffering from intolerance” says Tanner, who borrows from her background in music psychology to interpret the dynamics of human nature. “Rachel is such a dynamic, joyful human being that the show inspires us all to choose life, as Rachel chose.”
“Everybody makes choices in life for what is best for them,” says Miller. “You have to do what makes you happy.” Miller chooses to give back. She regularly shares her story about being a hidden child during the Holocaust at the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center. With the help of her friend Carol Hellman (of blessed memory), Miller also founded Shaving Israel, an organization that educates U.S. citizens about the needs of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and funds the purchase of toiletries, personal items and food vouchers from Israeli suppliers for members of the IDF who are in need or deprived of family support systems. “Shaving Israel has raised close to $130,000, and I’m very proud of that,” says Miller.
Tanner, too, likes to give back, offering her music and lyrics so that her audience can grow from the experiences she shares, fulfilling her dedication to conscientious storytelling. “I am a messenger for these stories.”
General tickets for Beyond Me are $18; the mitzvah price is $36 (a ticket plus a contribution). Register on the secure website, hmlc.org/BeyondMe, or by calling 314-442-3711.
The presentation is made possible through the generosity of Carol and Michael Staenberg. Event partners include Saint Louis Effort for AIDS, St. Louis Breast Cancer Coalition, Shaving Israel and Sharsharet, a program of Nishmah.