Playwright/director ELANA VANNONI, artistic director of Theatre Factory Studio, discusses her new work, Etty Hillesum: A Voice Outside the Camp, continuing at Son of Semele Theatre, Feb 10-12, in conjunction with SOS’s 6th Annual Creation Festival.
“It was my producer Alessia [Patregnani] who introduced me to Etty. Alessia was reading Etty’s journal, which Etty started in 1941 after Hitler’s armies invaded the Netherlands. She was a Jewish woman living in German-occupied Amsterdam at the time. I read the journals and fell in love with the work. I wrote the Italian version of this play first, based on the more than 900 pages Etty had written over three years. Then I decided I wanted to have this work performed onstage, so I did the English translation. Etty is such a complex personality that she is being played by two actresses [Alex Bartley and Jazmine Ramay]. There is the younger spirit who is full of hope and charisma. Then there is the other Etty who is more focused on the realities of her situation. The two sides are constantly in conflict with one another about how to deal with the fact that she was living at Westerbork, a Nazi transit camp, where eventually she would be transported to Auschwitz. She died there in 1943. The beauty within Etty’s soul was communicated as she wrote about what she experienced and saw—while also working constantly to help other people. There is an amazing quote from her writing: ‘I see no alternative, each of us must turn inward and destroy all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others. And remember that every atom of hate we add to this world makes it still more inhospitable.’ Etty Hillesum needs to be known.”
Julio Martinez-hosted Arts in Review—celebrating the best in theater and cabaret in the Greater Los Angeles area—airs Fridays (2-2:30pm) on KPFK (90.7FM). This Friday, Feb 5, Arts in review welcomes Roger Guenveur Smith, who is staging the LA premiere of Katori Hall’s The Montaintop.