For 50 years Terezin: Children of the Holocaust, written and directed by local playwright Anna Smulowitz, has been performed live, as a stage play, for schools and audiences locally and around the world. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, live productions of the stage play had to be paused indefinitely as theaters closed or faced restrictions and schools reverted to hybrid and remote formats. With the backdrop of headlines about the pandemic, global protests for racial and social justice, and the rise of discriminatory acts and hate speech, a group of local students decided the message of Terezin could not go silent at such a critical time.
The Terezin: Children of the Holocaust digital video production is directed and acted by students who have performed the stage version for many years. A professionally shot film with multiple camera angles brings the play to life compellingly on screen. The performance is bookended by an introduction from the playwright and a post-show discussion with the cast.
Olivia Colden, Newbury, Age 17 (Actor – Role of Celia Langer)
Ava Laroche, Boxford, Age 17 (Actor – Role of Corinna Senders)
Katie Lowell, Georgetown, Age 21 (Co-Director, Role of Miriam Fisher)
Jessie Rosenthal, Newburyport, Age 16 (Actor – Role of Rachel Langer)
Andrew Valianti, Newbury, Age 18 (Producer, Co-Director, Actor – Role of Aaron Shapiro)
Ava Valianti, Newbury, Age 11 (Actor – Role of Leah Poutreau)
Upon arrival in Newburyport in 1979, Anna founded the Newburyport Children's Theatre, now known as Theatre in the Open. Over the past 33 years, she has worked with most of the city's local theater and dance companies.
Anna has acted in, directed or produced over 150 shows in Newburyport, and developed three major summer arts programs, each of which is currently active in the community. Anna now collaborates with former students and colleagues in developing and producing new plays at the Actor's Studio of Newburyport and the Firehouse Center for the Arts.
In 1994 Anna was given the Model People award by the Timberland Corporation for her work on the play Terezin, and in 1996, she received the Mayor's award for the Arts for the same show. This award-winning play was recently performed to rave reviews at the Edinburgh film festival and has been invited for a return performance in Germany. Smulowitz Productions brought Terezin: Children of the Holocaust to New York City, off-off-Broadway, in 2012.
This is the most empowering thing I’ve ever seen.
Terezin: Children of the Holocaust is one of the most powerful tools I have seen to eradicate hate.
The play is an important tool, not just for Jewish children, but for all children to learn about racism, social responsibility and individual choice.
If you’ve not seen this play, you have missed a very deep involvement of your heart . . . and soul.
What a brave production from Anna Smulowitz and her team. This was an assured, mature performance from a group of very young Americans. All were equally strong in a play that called for a depth of emotion that must be way out of their experience. Anna Smulowitz produced an imagined but all too real, individual, human side to the story, telling of the children’s courage beyond their years and also the depths to which they could succumb in order to survive.
The feedback I have received from the schools who saw one of the performances of the Terezin play has been overwhelmingly positive. Nearly 1500 students saw the play plus several hundred adults. There is nothing equivalent to live theater that involves a captive audience and spreads the many messages of this thought-provoking show. The power of the experience was verbalized by young and old, and the universal themes resonated with the viewers. The timing of the performances being shown the week following the election furthered enhanced the impact and made the themes even more timely and relevant. The cast interacting with the audience was very well-received, interesting, and engaging. The play is an experience many will remember for the rest of their lives.