The play, which won the Dayton Playhouse FutureFest top award in 1997, also took top honors in two other national new play contests and won a coveted Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence grant. It’s featured in Gene A. Plunka’s book “Holocaust Theatre: Dramatizing Survivor Trauma and its Effects on the Second Generation.” The play has been performed more than three dozen times around the U.S. since its 1997 premiere in Dayton.
Playwright Faye Sholiton, a stage and screenwriter from Cleveland, is the founder and artistic director of Interplay Jewish Theatre. She’ll come to Dayton to lead a discussion after the Sunday afternoon performance.
About the play
The drama centers around 69-year old Bracha who is suffering the aftermath of an old trauma 50 years after her liberation from Nazi death camps. When she allows the child of other survivors into her suburban Cleveland home to take testimony for an archival video project, Bracha reviews the legacy she has left her own daughter.
Sholiton says her play is more than a Holocaust story – it’s a story about mothers, daughters and memory – about forgiving and being forgiven.
The seeds of her play can be traced back to Sholiton’s own history: 30 years of interviewing and interacting with Holocaust survivors. For the first 10 years she worked as a reporter for the Cleveland Jewish News, penning stories about survivors who were revisiting their home countries. When film director Steven Spielberg founded a non-profit organization dedicated to making audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust, Sholiton began conducting interviews for the USC Shoah Foundation-The Institute for Visual History and Education.
“The first two people I spoke with were children who were estranged from their parents,” Sholiton remembers. “I thought the first one was an exception but when it happened twice early on, it was heartbreaking for me.” The play provided an opportunity to explore what might have happened to cause that kind of rift.
Sholiton says one of the things she’s been most grateful for in her life has been the opportunity to interview Holocaust survivors. “They were always a challenge and they were work, but I think it’s such a rare opportunity to get these stories down on tape, preserve them, share them with their families and in archives where people can visit and hear these stories. How many family stories were lost? "
The new production
Brian Sharp, who has directed more than 30 theatrical productions in the community in a wide variety of venues, says his challenge is to make sure the play “stays real” and doesn’t become overly dramatic. “The script is so moving and well written that the actors don’t have to create more drama than what’s written on the page,” he explains. “The challenge is making sure it stays real, relevant and appropriate. Directing it inside a synagogue sanctuary brings on the same challenge. It makes it even more moving and we want to be respectful of the space.”
Sharp, who also directed the Fairborn production of the play, remembers seeing it first as an audience member 25 years ago at FutureFest. “You anticipate the issues with Bracha and her daughter,” he recalls, “but as you go through it, you realize the interviewer, Ann, is facing the same issues.”
He’s hoping there will be two important take-aways for his Sept. 18th audiences: remembering the impact of this atrocity and understanding the power of healing in relationships.
Seasoned community theater actor Pam McGinnis, who first brought Bracha to life in the Fairborn production, will again play the leading role. While McGinnis is honored and excited to recreate the part, she admits she’s a bit nervous since this audience is likely to include families of Holocaust survivors.
She describes Bracha as a woman who feels the need to come across as unflappable but also has a sense of humor and a softer side. “The elephant in the room is her estranged daughter who she hasn’t spoken to in 12 years,” says McGinnis. “Although the character of Ann is supposed to be interviewing Bracha, the show morphs into something else where the tables are turned and Bracha is interviewing Ann.”
McGinnis says she can personally relate to the character on many levels. “I lost a son and so did Bracha,” she explains. “This is a play about family secrets that any family might have and just doesn’t talk about and the effect that can have on the next generation. It could be suicide, mental illness, drug addiction.”
Other members of the cast include Jenny Westfall as Ann; Shana Fishbein as Rivka and Patrick Comunale as Chris.
Halcomb, who has been a member of the Jewish Federation’s Holocaust Memorial committee for decades, is concerned about the “huge amount of prejudice in the world right now. Any education will help minimize it. We need to work on that.”
She’s hoping her synagogue’s presentation of “The Interview” is a step in that direction. “This is an important and entertaining way to educate people about the Holocaust.”
HOW TO GO:
What: “The Interview” by Faye Sholiton, 1997 winner of the Dayton Playhouse’s annual FutureFest
When: 2:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18
Where: Beth Jacob Synagogue, 7020 N. Main St., Dayton
Admission: Free. You’re asked to RSVP to 937-274-2149
- Playwright Faye Sholiton will lead a discussion about the play following the 2:30 p.m. performance.
- More than 3,000 testimonies from Holocaust survivors can be viewed through the Shoah Foundation: https://sfi.usc.edu
- “The U.S. and the Holocaust,” the new Ken Burns documentary, is a three-part six hour documentary that will premiere on PBS stations at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18.