Bates to stage premiere of holocaust diary

A one-woman play based on the writings of Etty Hillesum, a young woman who lived in Holland during the Nazi occupation, will premiere at Bates College in Gannett Theater at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11; Friday, Sept. 12; Saturday, Sept. 13; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept.14.

A Thinking Heart: The Diary of Etty Hillesum, directed by Ellen Seeling of Portland, features actress Suzanne Sturn, who adapted the production from Hillesum’s published works, An Interrupted Life and Letters From Westerbork. Hillesum’s work reveals how her intelligence and sympathy are a form of resistance during years of war and oppression in the Netherlands.

Hillesum’s writings have been called “unsurpassed in Holocaust literature” by The New York Times. “While these were years of war and oppression for Holland, they were for Hillesum years of profound personal reflection and discovery and an affirmation of hope and belief amid the most difficult of circumstance,” said Seeling. “Despite the horror around her, Etty remains a celebrant of life whose intelligence and sympathy are in themselves a form of resistance.”

The play moves from the early days of the war when Hillesum’s life seems almost unaffected by the occupation, to her time at Westerbork, a transit camp for Dutch Jews before their deportation to Auschwitz, when the realities of the era directly confronted her.

Seeling is new to the theater faculty at Bates College. A member of the United Scenic Artists, she is a costume and scenic designer and director who recently directed “Angels in America, parts I and II” at Western State College in Gunnison, Colo. Her design credits include university theater, Off Broadway and opera.

Sturn is an actor and director based in Rochester, N.Y. She has appeared at the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival and seven seasons at the 21st Street Players in Minneapolis. Most recently she directed Twelfth Night and Arcadia in Rochester.

Seeling and Sturn have collaborated previously on productions of Mother Courage and Her Children, Antigone, The House of Bernarda Alba and Beckett and Ionesco Shorts.

After its Bates opening, the play will run for the month of October at the Shipping Dock Theatre in Rochester, N.Y., followed by a road tour including performances in Minneapolis, Boston and Washington D.C.

Tickets are $6 for general admission and $3 for senior citizens and non- Bates students. For reservations or additional information, call the Schaeffer Theatre box office at 207-786-6161.

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