Shai Paz about 2016-17 testimony.theater.cleveland

Being of European descent and a third generation holocaust survivor on both sides of my family, I find myself greatly impacted by the Holocaust – always have. I am fascinated by textbook narratives about the Holocaust, yet they cannot compare to the raw, personal stories that I feel so privileged to have heard from Holocaust survivors themselves. I recently participated in Cleveland’s first year of the program “Testimony Theatre”, where real stories of six completely different survivors were brought to life in a play written by a group of high school students, including myself. The goal of this play was to bring light to the biggest revenge Jews have against the Nazis – life. These six individuals, all from different areas of Europe, are just a small percentage of the greatest revenge of all, and they touch the hearts of every person they meet. The “Testimony theatre” process began as we prepared questions for our interviews with survivors, generating information that would later become the play. Each survivor was able to meet with us at least once to tell us their holocaust survival story, answer questions, and bring us into their lives. After we interviewed all the survivors, Sheri Gross, the director behind “testimony.theatre.cleveland”, combined the stories into a cohesive play that came together as a story of strength and survival… the stories came to life in front of our very eyes. A small audience of survivors attended the last rehearsal to give their seals of approval before we performed their stories in front of the community. I portrayed Albert Pollack, a brave man from Poland, whose story really touched me. Albert, being around my age at the time of the war, did anything and everything to live; he taught us that “determination is a powerful feeling; it will give you the energy to fulfill your dreams”. That is exactly what he did, and he survived. My experience in testimony theatre was one that I will never forget. From interviewing each survivor, all the way to our final performance this was one of the most impactful and powerful experiences of my life.

…and one more thing…

Thank you all for being a part of such an amazing experience with me I am so honored and privileged to have worked with each of you to bring such amazing people’s stories to life and it would not have been as meaningful as it was if it hadn’t been with each of you. Sheri thank you for bringing such a meaningful program to our community, one that we can hopefully carry on for many more years.
I am very proud of all of us and I’m sure our survivors and families are even prouder.