You may suppose that Anne Frank was the one teen who saved a diary of her experiences through the Holocaust.
Truly, there have been lots of of them saved and revealed, some just lately fetching as a lot as $800 for a used copy.
This I realized from Jordan Beck who, 14 years in the past, encountered a e-book of Holocaust diary excerpts written by younger folks, Anne Frank amongst them.
He couldn’t get these tales and feelings out of his thoughts.
Now, Beck, a long-time lyricist and producer, is managing producer of CCAE Theatricals, a brand new firm based mostly on the California Heart for the Arts, Escondido.
He conceived the brand new musical, “Witnesses,” based mostly on 5 teen diaries. The present’s world premiere caps off the brand new firm’s first full season.
The subject material could also be daunting, however the creative manufacturing is technically complicated and emotionally partaking.
The issues of the younger people, whereas acquainted to teenagers (crushes, bullying, arguments with dad and mom or siblings) have the added anguish of bombings and the specter of demise each day. The diaries might have been written at present — in Ukraine.
These diarists, ages 12-18, whether or not they have been in Holland, Lithuania or Poland, have been coping with the encroaching Nazi onslaught, and the intense anti-Semitism that pressured them to depart faculty, prohibited them from utilizing public transportation, made them put on a yellow Star of David always (a “badge of disgrace” figuring out them as outsiders — and targets), and drove them into hiding, or prison-like ghettos (and later, work, detention or focus camps).
The studies are gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. The dutiful writers attempt so laborious to keep up hope, and to retain their religion.
One says, “Even within the darkest second, there’s one thing that may raise you up, make you smile. Even within the darkest second, there’s magnificence, peace, connection, launch.” However one other wonders, “If God exists, would He enable folks to deal with different folks like this?”
The final time I visited the Anne Frank Home, years in the past, the informational show downstairs from the attic annex the place she was one in every of eight folks in hiding for two+ years, featured newspaper articles from world wide, disputing the veracity of her story, debunking her diary, denying all the Holocaust. (There’s now a full museum).
As if all of the photographs and newsreels and archival documentation — to not point out the ever-dwindling inhabitants of survivors — don’t give the deceive all that hate-filled denial, this new array of first-person studies gives added proof of the realities of that point — and frighteningly displays our personal time, with fascism and anti-Semitism growing at house and overseas.
Within the present, I anticipated to fulfill 5 younger folks and listen to their tales one after the other. Beck’s preliminary thought was to recruit 5 completely different writing groups to make use of the phrases from the diaries for a music cycle.
When he reached out to Tony award-winner Robert L. Freedman (“A Gentleman’s Information to Love and Homicide,” which had its world premiere at The Outdated Globe in 2013) to write down the e-book for the 100-minute musical, the piece assumed a distinct kind.
Freedman created dialogue from the diaries and put the teenagers collectively (although they have been in several international locations and ranged in age from 12 to 18). He had them sing and work together as a bunch, interspersing their songs and ideas, since there have been so many commonalities.
That makes it a little bit more durable to maintain the characters and tales straight, particularly because the ten proficient performers tackle a number of roles (maybe a constant costume factor for every actor taking part in one of many 5 major diarists would assist).
Additionally, because the tales begin to sound related after some time, some trimming is so as. There have been not less than 4 or 5 musical moments that would simply have signaled the top of the present — however then it went on.
The performances — particularly by the 2 Fairness actors of the group — San Diego actor/director and Broadway/movie performer Austyn Myers as Lithuanian Yitskhok Rudashewski, with songs by Matt Gould (who co-wrote the still-running La Jolla Playhouse pre-Broadway musical, “Lempicka”), and Yale alumna Camille Umoff as Renia Spiegel of Poland, with heartfelt songs by Anna Okay. Jacobs.
Afra Sofia Tulley, who has Off Broadway and regional credit, can also be a standout as Romanian-born 13-year-old Éva Heyman, singing songs by Carmel Dean (music) and Mindi Dickstein (lyrics).
Kai Justice Rosales, who simply acquired his BFA in musical theater from Cal State Fullerton, performs Holland-born Moshe Ze’ev Flinker, whose songs have been written by Adam Gwon.
Beck was most taken by the diary of 12 year-old Dawid Rubinowicz (performed by Giovanny Diaz de Leon, a latest graduate of the San Diego Faculty of Artistic and Performing Arts). Beck felt a private connection to Dawid’s story, so in collaboration with composer Gwon, he wrote the lyrics. Gwon additionally wrote the present’s title music, “We Will Be Witnesses.”
Many of the songs are ballads or anthems; a couple of are a tad upbeat. Gwon’s haunting quantity, “What Will You Do?,” paying homage to the “Cabaret” music, “What Would You Do?,” is directed pointedly to the viewers.
Skillful musical course is by Gerald Sternbach, and there’s an (unseen) however skilled 7-piece orchestra, beneath the baton of Lisa LeMay.
J. Scott Lapp directs with creativity and sensitivity, abetted by LA-based choreographer Natalie Iscovich, granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. Within the dance items, too, there are shadows of different Broadway musicals.
Matthew Herman’s set is a personality and a marvel in itself. An austere and imposing assemblage of grey and brown, wooden and stone, it options elevating partitions (on which evocative projections, by Andrew Nagy, are forged), a rising/falling doorframe, two entice openings within the ground, a turntable, and a suspended shelf of books, together with the diaries. It’s a surprising creation of technical wizardry, superbly enhanced by Zach Blane’s lighting and Jon Fredette’s sound.
This isn’t a historical past lesson, however it’s a sometimes-painful reminder of what occurred — and what might simply occur once more.
We can not flip our backs. We are able to’t ignore rising fascism, or the rescinding of rights and freedoms. Or mindless, pointless killing of innocents.
We’re all witnesses; we can not look away. Not then. Not now. Not “over there.” Not proper right here. Not ever.
Everybody, younger and previous, must see this present.
- “Witnesses” runs by July 30 on the California Heart for the Arts, Escondido, at 340 N. Escondido Blvd.
- Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
- Tickets ($35-$75) can be found at 800-988-4253 or on-line at artcenter.org/training/ccae-theatricals
- Working Time: 100 min. (no intermission)
- COVID Protocol: Proof of vaccination and masks are now not required. Masks are required, however only a few folks have been voluntarily masked.
Pat Launer, a member of the American Theatre Critics Affiliation, is a long-time San Diego arts author and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and evaluations could be discovered at patlauner.com.