After months of preparation, the Goshen College theater department will once more grace the stage of the Umble Center this weekend to present “Kindertransport” by Diane Samuels. The play tells the powerful tale of a Holocaust survivor and her relationship with her daughter.
The show, which may be intense for younger audiences, tells the tale of an initiative established shortly after the outbreak of World War II that saved over 10,000 Jewish children. Known as the Kindertransport, children left their homes and families to be sent by train and boat to England in an effort to flee Nazi Germany.
The production itself centers around Eva, a girl who escapes through this program. Now an adult with her own daughter, she finds herself haunted by her past, struggling to cope with her hidden roots and secrets while maintaining her relationship with her daughter.
Director Anna Kurtz Kuk, assistant professor of theater, notes that though the production moves between two time periods (the 1940s and the 1980s), it’s a play for today. The six-person cast comprises of Lauren Myers, Cristina Jantz, and Lucia Nisly, first-years, Rachel Buckley and Ben Reimer, sophomores, and Taylor Zehr, a junior.
“Kindertransport touches on universal and contemporary themes of identity, abandonment, immigration, the plight of refugees and survival,” said Kurtz Kuk. “It also deals especially with the mother-daughter relationship.”
The actors involved with the show agree that it expresses important themes many can relate to while still portraying a story that is rarely put in the spotlight. Zehr cited this as being a valuable reason for people to come see the show.
“This is a story surrounding the Holocaust that I think is rarely told,” Zehr said. “It brings empathy for stories that have more than one side and no clear ‘right answer.’”
Zehr noted that prior to the production, she had no knowledge of the children sent out of Germany at the dawn of World War II. “Kindertransport” provides a venue for viewers to become aware of this system that saved so many lives.
The show has proved to be a challenge for the six actors involved, due in large part to the complex emotions expressed by the characters. According to Zehr, when preparing for the play, sifting through all the different layers of emotions for characters that have very real reasons to feel the way they do was incredibly difficult.
“Being able to understand those emotions and motives on a deeper level, and attempt to convey them to the audience, is no easy task,” said Zehr.
Myers also stated that it was an interesting challenge to take on the complex emotions required for “Kindertransport.”
“Unlike in other shows,” Myers said, “you have to mask strong emotions with something else. I think everyone is doing a really good job of that.”
Myers says that the show will be a definite learning experience for viewers.
“The strong mother-daughter themes will allow audience members to relate to an emotionally powerful story that is otherwise foreign,” said Myers. “It is a story that has to be told.”
The work put in behind the scenes has come together to create a fully complete piece of theater. Both cast and crew describe the opportunity to share this story, as well as the growth they have seen in each other throughout the course of the production, as being incredibly rewarding. Those involved describe the show as surreal, though the drama and themes being conveyed are very real.
The show premieres in the Goshen College Umble Center on Saturday, April 1 at 8 p.m. Show dates also include April 7 and 8 at 8 p.m., as well as 3 p.m. matinees on April 2 and 9. ASL interpretation will be available for the performance on April 9. Each performance will have a 10-minute intermission.
Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students, seniors and GC employees. They can be purchased online at www.goshen.edu/tickets or through the Welcome Center at (574) 535-7566 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets can also be purchased at the Umble Center box office one hour prior to the show.