Susan Stein Presents: Etty (The Play) and Recovering Lost Voices (Workshops)

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Dates: January 13-18, 2020


Susan Stein is an educator, actress and an author. She has appeared in Arthur Miller’s American Clock, directed by Austin Pendleton. She was seen at Luna Stage in A Parent’s Evening. Susan studied acting at NYU Graduate School of Arts & Science and Purchase College, SUNY. She served for thirteen years on the faculty of Princeton Day School in Princeton, NJ, teaching Dramatic Literature, playwriting and the history and literature of the Holocaust.

In Cleveland Susan will presents two of her most successful projects: 

1. Etty, (The Play) – see opportunities below

2. Recovering Lost Voices (Workshops) – see opportunities below

About Etty (The Play)

Etty is a touring one-woman play based on the diaries and letters of Etty Hillesum.

Adapted and performed by Susan Stein.

Directed by Austin Pendleton.

Using only Etty Hillesum’s words, Susan Stein’s adaptation brings us to 1941 when Esther “Etty” Hillesum, a young Dutch Jewish woman, is living in Amsterdam. Upon the recommendation of her therapist, Julius Spier, she began a diary on 8 March, 1941, to help her with her depression. Hoping to become a writer, the diaries take on their own literary life, presenting both Etty’s growth as a writer and spiritual transformation. As deportations begin, she prepares for the three day journey eastward, she digs deeper into her soul to understand this piece of history and root out any hatred or bitterness, believing that humanity is the best and only solution for survival. Etty’s words, insights and beliefs reach out from the Holocaust and allow us to see the power of hope and individual thought in the most extreme circumstances. In her gentle yet forthright way, Etty asks us not to leave her at Auschwitz but to let her have a bit of a say in what she hopes will be a new world.

Standing alone on a bare stage, Etty speaks directly to the audience as she witnesses her world and confronts God with her ethical and moral questions. Crafted solely from Hillesum’s writings, this unconventional theater experience brings the audience into Etty’s thinking, as she wrestles to write the life she is living–her loves, her work, her wry sense of humor, her knowledge of self and the moment in history.

She loves much of her life in occupied Amsterdam and even later in the Westerbork concentration camp, yet she also finds it horrible.

Music from Westerbork’s Cabaret weaves into sharp accounts of the transports, a boy who tries to run away, the image of a guard picking purple lupines, the untenable situation of Jews in the Jewish Council and the shape of her lover’s mouth. Etty’s story is a struggle against despair. In refusing to see herself as a victim, even as the world closes in around her, Etty finds a freedom with herself and affirms what it means to be human. The audience joins the conversation that the play Etty has begun. Each performance is followed by an audience- generated discussion that effectively becomes the second act of the play.

About Recovering Lost Voices (Workshops)

Recovering Lost Voices workshops engage students intellectually, emotionally and artistically, as they wrestle with issues of social justice and ethical dilemmas. Through primary sources including diaries, journals, memoir, letters, and artwork as well as fiction and historical research, students explore how different forms of bearing witness shape understanding. Lessons are organized around essential questions using primary and secondary sources for middle or high school students and can be tailored to single class periods, full-day workshops, or extended residencies. Each workshop is designed as an individual class experience but may be adapted to accommodate larger groups.

Primary Source Literacy: Students take ownership of primary sources and get their hands dirty by analyzing, exploring, and engaging deeply with questions about how we convey history to others and consume history that is presented to us. Sample assignments include:

*Practice close reading and discussion of primary source documents

*Critical writing in response to prompts and learning how to draft their own research questions

*Adapt diaries into found poems

*Create monologues, dramatic scenes, choral readings that adapt primary sources from the page to the stage

*Create an exhibit of student-curated work and research for the school and broader community

*Compare documents to understand how perspectives and experiences differ