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March 19, 2017 1:25 pm

California Teens Bring Holocaust Survivors’ Stories to the Stage

avatar by Natasha Swords

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Photo: Wiki Commons.

How should we approach the task of channeling and sharing the darkest memories of a Holocaust survivor, let alone the collective remembrances of millions? And furthermore, how does a teenager do it?

One way is through the theater.

To that end, the Santa Monica High School’s Voices of History Theater Workshop is a truly important and vital endeavor — both for students and audience members alike.

For the second year in a row, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust has partnered with Santa Monica High School to bring the voices of Holocaust survivors to the stage.

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For eight weeks, students at the high school have worked closely with Holocaust survivors and professional writer-mentors to create original plays based on the life stories of the survivors. The play they’ve created will be performed on March 22 at the high school.

This year’s student production tells the stories of four Holocaust Survivors: Dr. Avraham (Av) Perlmutter, David Lenga, Edith Frankie and Erika Fabian. The play is divided into four parts — to cover each survivor’s story — and runs approximately 60 minutes in total.

In preparation for the production, each survivor met with a separate group of eight or nine students over the course of three days, with a writer-mentor also sitting in on each meeting. On the first day, each survivor told his or her story. The second meeting was a question-and-answer session, based on what the students had learned during the first gathering. The third meeting included an “object share,” during which the survivor showed the students a personal object that was meaningful to him or her, and then discussed its significance.

Perlmutter chose to share his best-selling book, Determined, an autobiography about his breath-taking efforts to evade the Nazis.

“I wrote Determined to inspire readers of all ages, and to help ensure that this dark period of history is not forgotten,” he said. “But I also wanted to communicate specifically with younger people, who might otherwise find something like the Holocaust unimaginable. … Here young people are accessing and using the memories of survivors to depict our history through the medium of theater. That’s truly important. The critical lessons of the Holocaust must be communicated to, and by, young people if we are to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again.”

In addition to preparing the plays, students in the program also learned about Holocaust history and interviewing techniques from the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust staff. The students also took an in-depth tour of the Museum’s primary sources and galleries before interviewing the survivors.

More information on the March 22 performance can be found here.

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