Shoah play is scheduled to open next month

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

The book Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine tells the true story of how a teacher and her students in Japan uncovered the life story of a young Holocaust victim. Like the book itself, it was a series of coincidences and hard work to secure the rights for the U.S. premiere of the play about the book.

Metro Theater Company managing director Joan Briccetti and artistic director Carol North were attending an international theatre festival in Montreal in the fall of 2005. There were theater professionals from all over the world including directors and writers. Briccetti just happened to meet playwright Emil Sher who told her about the play he was working on which had not yet been produced and wasn’t even finished. Briccetti was struck by the story and indicated she wanted to learn more about it.

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Sher mailed a copy of the book to Briccetti after the conference. North read the book in a single sitting and thought it was a great story, but wondered how it would look as a play. She contacted Sher and asked him if he would be willing to share an early draft which he did. North was very taken with the theatrical retelling of the story and the way Sher was approaching it. From that moment North and Briccetti set about to secure the rights for the U.S. premiere of the play.

“It was a lot of hard work,” North said. “Joan was really the foot soldier at the beginning of that campaign and all the way through.”

The play production itself is only part of the story. The educational and sociological lessons of the play have been offered throughout the community. Schools and groups have been taking part in discussions through live webcasts, cable programming, discussions with the playwright, book author, the Japanese teacher Fumiko Ishioka who started the search and Hana’s brother George Brady.

The St. Louis community has truly embraced the project according to North. She is gratified by the number of stakeholders who have emerged including: organizations, individuals and schools. Several schools and organizations have participated in the educational opportunities and reserved seating for the play. Theater goers may also participate in the educational opportunities by choosing to attend a post show event. The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival and the American Jewish Committee are sponsoring an panel discussion with George Brady, Fumiko Ishioka and Emil Sher moderated by Rabbi Carnie Rose on Saturday, Jan. 13. A discussion with artistic director Carol North and the team behind the play is sponsored by OASIS on Sunday, Jan. 13. On the same day, the Jewish Community Relations Council is sponsoring a panel discussion with representatives of different ethnicities in the community. The National Conference of Community and Justice is sponsoring a tolerance and diversity workshop led by the organization and graduates of their Camp Anytown youth leadership program on Saturday, Jan. 20. Youth leaders of different religious faiths will lead the discussion on Sunday, Jan. 21 sponsored by Interfaith Partnership and moderated by Margaret Bilinsky.

The St. Louis community has truly embraced the project according to North. She is gratified by the number of stakeholders who have emerged including: organizations, individuals and schools. Several schools and organizations have participated in the educational opportunities and reserved seating for the play. Theater goers may also participate in the educational opportunities by choosing to attend a post show event. The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival and the American Jewish Committee are sponsoring an panel discussion with George Brady, Fumiko Ishioka and Emil Sher moderated by Rabbi Carnie Rose on Saturday, Jan. 13. A discussion with artistic director Carol North and the team behind the play is sponsored by OASIS on Sunday, Jan. 13. On the same day, the Jewish Community Relations Council is sponsoring a panel discussion with representatives of different ethnicities in the community. The National Conference of Community and Justice is sponsoring a tolerance and diversity workshop led by the organization and graduates of their Camp Anytown youth leadership program on Saturday, Jan. 20. Youth leaders of different religious faiths will lead the discussion on Sunday, Jan. 21 sponsored by Interfaith Partnership and moderated by Margaret Bilinsky.

“We’re doing the production but so much more has happened,” North said. “That is the really deep satisfaction for me: this project is owned and cherished by so many people who share a sense of its importance.”

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