SIGNS OF LIFE to Host Series of Post-Show Talks with Holocaust Survivors, Begin. 10/2
SIGNS OF LIFE, A Tale of Terezin, will host post-show discussions with Holocaust survivors, many of whom spent time in the Theresienstadtghetto. To continue the conversation sparked by SIGNS OF LIFE, survivors and their family members will share their own stories and experiences and offer unique perspectives to the show. SIGNS OF LIFE will play Chicago for a limited six week engagement playing September 18 through October 27, 2013.
Following select matinee performances, special guests will participate in post-show talkbacks including Fritzie Fritzshall, survivor and president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, Estelle Glasner Laughlin, survivor and author ofTranscending Darkness: A Girl's Journey Out of the Holocaust, and Virginia Criste, lead commissioner and producer of SIGNS OF LIFE.
Steen Metz (Guest on Oct. 2, Oct. 16)
Metz was transported to Terezin as a child from Odense, Denmark. He was liberated April 15, 1945 by the white buses organized by the Swedish Red Cross.
Kurt Gutfruend (Guest on Oct. 6)
Gutfruend was a hidden child captured at age 5 and sent to Terezin.
Fritzie Fritzshall (Guest on Oct. 9)
Fritzshall was deported from Czechoslovakia at age 13. She is now the president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
Walter Reed (Guest on Oct. 13)
At age 15, Reed was sent on a train to Brussels in June 1939. He was saved as part of a refugee and rescue program in Belgium and survived as a hidden child.
John Freund (Guest on Oct. 20)
Freund was deported at age 12 and sent to Terezin. He lived in the boys' home and was a member of the Birkenau Boys, a group who survived the transportation from Terezin to the Birkenau Family Camp at Auschwitz.
David Chack (Guest on Oct. 20)
Chack is an adjunct faculty member at The Theatre School at DePaul University. He is also the president for the Association for Jewish Theatre.
Estelle Glaser Laughlin (Guest on Oct. 23)
Laughlin, as a child, survived the Warsaw Ghetto. She is the author of Transcending Darkness: A Girl's Journey Out of the Holocaust.
Virginia S. Criste (Guest on Oct. 27)
Criste, producer and lead commissioner of SIGNS OF LIFE, commissioned this work in honor of her paternal grandparents, who were transported from Terezin on October 28, 1944. She will be appearing with members of the cast.
SIGNS OF LIFE, a new drama with music based on the true story of the Czech ghetto Theresienstadt, tells one of the most fascinating and least known stories of the Holocaust.
Originally founded by the Nazis, Theresienstadt was specifically designated for the academic and artistic Jews of Europe. In an attempt to deceive the Red Cross and sway public perception, the Nazis decided to "beautify" the ghetto and commission a propaganda film. SIGNS OF LIFE shows the struggles of the captives of Theresienstadt as they try to expose the truth through art and music--and in doing so, discover the humanity they all share.
The inception of the musical began when creator Virginia S. Criste chose to visit the ghetto Theresienstadt, located in what was then Czechoslovakia, to learn more about her grandparents, who spent their last days there. At that time, there was only a small exhibit and a depository of artifacts that they allowed her to view in the company of a Museum official. "Spending a day with the remnants of hand-drawn posters announcing show performances, cabaret tickets, albums of dorm life, and so much more was hard to forget," stated Criste.
Leaving Theresienstadt, Criste continued to think about the inhabitants of the ghetto, not just of the horrors they faced, but also about how they strove to keep music and theatre alive as a vital part of their captivity. She commissioned composer Joel Derfner, lyricistLen Schiff and librettist Peter Ullian to come together and shape the musical, with Chicago direction by Lisa Protes and musical direction by Mike Pettry.
Writing a musical about captives living in a ghetto during the Holocaust is not an easy task; the authors had to take a heartbreaking time in world history and turn it into a human story, a story infused with the life, spirit, and even humor of the people who lived these events. And when people see SIGNS OF LIFE, they see the emotion and humanity of this piece.
As a ghetto filled with artists, musicians and thespians, among others, a great deal of artwork arose from Theresienstadt that still exists today. SIGNS OF LIFE incorporates a number of pieces from the original artwork. "We want to use the visuals available to us to help tell the story," commented Criste.
SIGNS OF LIFE is a story that must be told, and it's never been told quite this way before. "It is an important story because it was an event of tremendous importance to Jewish, European, and Western history, and as such, is still important today, in knowing who we are and where we come from," said librettist Peter Ullian. "That said, living in a time as fraught as ours, a time of peril, violence, authoritarianism, secretarianism and genocide, a story about people trying to hold on to what makes them human, to bear witness to horror, and to struggle to make difficult moral choices, has a strong contemporary resonance."
"It's a story about what it's like to be caught in a web of tyranny and deception, and what people do mentally and emotionally to survive it; we want people to see it not only as a Holocaust story, but as a human story," concluded Criste.