One-Woman Play “Etty” Shares a Voice From the Holocaust

April 15, 2014 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

Susan Stein is the author of Etty, a one-woman play set in 1943 that explores the life of a young Dutch Jewish student named Esther “Etty” Hillesum shortly before she is deported to the Auschwitz/Birkenau death camp.

Stein will perform Etty on Sunday, April 27, as the keynote event for the 24th Annual Holocaust Education Project at Elmhurst College. The performance will be preceded by a Service of Remembrance.

An aspiring writer and poet, as well as an unorthodox religious thinker and seeker, Etty Hillesum began writing a diary in 1941 at the urging of her therapist, to help her cope with her depression.

Adapted by Stein from Hillesum’s diaries and letters, Etty brings us to 1943, as Hillesum prepares for her deportation, and as she struggles between her deep instincts for survival and her willingness to die—to refuse to see herself as a victim and to choose to accept her fate and suffer with her fellow Jews. In her writings, Hillesum explores her life working for the Amsterdam Jewish Council and at the Westerbork transit camp, where she was interned. She strives to understand “this piece of history,” her spirituality and her desire to have a “bit of a say” in what she hopes will be a new world. Etty Hillesum was 29 years old when she was murdered at Auschwitz/Birkenau.

Stein has performed Etty extensively throughout the United States and western Europe, in schools, colleges and universities, homes, prisons, festivals and theaters. After a recent tour of Minnesota, she received an artist-in-residency grant from Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council. She led projects in two Minnesota prisons—MCF-Stillwater and MCF-Shakopee—in which groups of inmates read and wrote responses to Hillesum’s writings.

The Service of Remembrance, followed by the performance of Etty, will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Founders Lounge of the Frick Center. Admission is free, and the public is invited. For more information, call (630) 617-3390.

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