Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Calling on performance groups: Holocaust Center to promote 75 peformances of 'Witness'


“Witness” drama includes archival photographs that help the story of Kristallnacht.

In 2012 the Holocaust Center created a drama, titled “Witness,” that tells the story of Kristallnacht through the words of the victims, perpetrators and bystanders who were there on that fateful night. Because of its format—a readers’ theater that requires no costumes, memorization or special staging, accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation of historic photographs—it provides a simple but powerful way to focus on the human cost of Nazi persecution.

In recognition of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the drama has been offered free of charge to groups who would like to perform it. Working with the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, the goal is to promote 75 performances in a variety of venues ranging from theater companies to church youth groups.

The focus has been on the Central Florida area, with recent performances in Maitland and in Sanford, and more performances, including one at UCF on Oct. 22 and St. Mary Magdalan Church on Nov. 13, on the schedule.

A surprising number of groups outside of the area have asked to be included in the project. The University of San Diego has requested permission to use the script. Two synagogues in South Florida plan to use the play for their Kristallnacht observances, and a group in Boston has asked to be among the 75 groups.

Susan Mitchell, project director at the Holocaust Center and co-author of the drama, said that the response has far exceeded her expectations. “Even in the age of the internet, I never thought we’d get so many requests from groups outside of our area.”

 She said she believes that the popularity of the play reflects a real desire to understand how and why the Holocaust happened. Because the script has been created entirely from the words of people who were actually there, it gives the audience a chance to witness the events as if it were in real time.

“It’s hard to imagine the impact of 30,000 men taken away to camps that night,” Mitchell said. “But when you hear the words of a woman whose husband disappears during Kristallnacht, and the anguish she feels when her little boy asks ‘Where’s Daddy?’ you start to understand the human tragedy of Kristallnacht on a very personal level.”

There are still opportunities for other groups to arrange performances. Information is available on the website http://www.kristallnacht2013.org or by calling the Holocaust Center at 407-628-0555.


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