February 3, 2011
By Victor Tine Staff writer
NEWBURYPORT — Like its characters, the play itself doesn't grow old.
Anna Smulowitz wrote "Terezin: Children of the Holocaust" in 1971 as her master's degree thesis at the University of Cincinnati.
Smulowitz is the daughter of two survivors of the infamous Auschwitz death camp in Poland.
She originally intended the play to be a tribute to her many relatives who died in the Holocaust, but it transcends the moment in history that is its setting: two days in 1942 in the Theiresinstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.
It does portray the horrors perpetrated by Nazi Germany.
"It's a reminder that something that grotesque can repeat itself," Smulowitz said.
But it also speaks to more universal problems—especially to young audiences.
"Prejudice, harassment, hatred, bullying: they can recognize those things," Smulowitz said.
"Terezin: Children of the Holocaust" will be performed Sunday at 2 and 5 p.m. at The Actors Studio at The Tannery on Water Street.
It is directed by Andy Blaustein, a 22-year-old graduate of Emerson College in Boston. Blaustein, Smulowitz said, was a cast member in the play when he was 10.
Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors. Seating in the Actors Studio is limited. To reserve a place, call 978-465-1229.
Proceeds from the Actors Studio performances will be used to defray the costs of taking the production to the internationally known Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland in August.
"Terezin" tells the story of six children, ages 10 to about 16, confined in a concentration camp cell during the two days before they are transported to Auschwitz and their deaths.
The play suggests what lies ahead for the six children, but Smulowitz also describes it as "a portrait of the hope that children naturally possess and how these particular children achieved a triumph of spirit through their personal relationships and their artwork."
"Terezin" had its debut 40 years ago at Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park. Since then, it has been around the world and back.
The first Newburyport performance was in 1982, Smulowitz said. It has been performed in Germany, at Auschwitz in Poland and at Terezin itself. The Auschwitz performance was part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of the death camp by the Allies.
The play won the American Children's Television Award in 1984.
It has been translated into Spanish for performances in schools in Central America and is currently touring New England high schools.
Smulowitz has been active in Newburyport-area theater productions for more than 30 years. She currently runs Anna Smulowitz Productions (smulowitzproductions.com).
Smulowitz said she is gratified by the continued reactions of American students to the play after four decades. Young audiences who may never have heard of the Holocaust are exposed to a historical perspective while also being introduced to topics such as racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance.
"I'm so excited it still moves people," she said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: "Terezin: Children of the Holocaust," a play by Anna Smulowitz.
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 6, 2 and 5 p.m.
WHERE: The Actors Studio at The Tannery, 50 Water St., Mill No. 1, Suite No. 5.
HOW MUCH: Tickets $18, students and seniors $15; for reservations call (978) 465-1229.