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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Holocaust Drama Expresses “Complex Humanity”

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What do you get when you have a play about a housekeeper who hides several Jews in a German military officer’s basement during the Holocaust? A show “anyone can connect to … unless you have no soul,” joked Ingrid Hofeldt.

This term, sophomores Shayna Gleason and Hofeldt bring us “Irena’s Vow,” the true story of a young Polish Catholic servant girl who is a nurse during World War II.

“She’s about our age. She was working for a German commandant; she moves into his house as a housekeeper and takes it upon herself to hide twelve of her Jewish friends in his basement without his knowledge because who would ever think to look there? He eventually finds out. We don’t want to ruin what happens, but essentially, things get rough for her,” Gleason said.

To Gleason, “Irena’s Vow” is “about the trials and tribulations of both the Jews and Irena herself. The story of courage on both sides.”

“It really looks at the gray area of human nature,” Hofeldt added, saying, “Irena’s obviously nice because she’s doing this selfless act, but she can be slimy, too.”

“There’s a lot of contrast between the courage and the cowardice,” Gleason agreed.

Gleason is intimately familiar with the show’s lead role, having played Irena in her high school’s production of the Dan Gordon play.

She appeared in both “The Vagina Monologues” and “Caucasian Chalk Circle” with Hofeldt last year and brought the play to Hofeldt as a prospective ETB directing project.

“She gave it to me to read,” said Hofeldt, “and she was like, ‘If you don’t like it, we don’t have to do it.’ I was in upper Sayles and it was just the most powerful thing to read.”

“She was sobbing,” said Gleason, laughing.

“It was pretty bad,” Hofeldt agreed. “Ingrid had experience directing and I didn’t, so we thought with my intimate knowledge of the show and her experience it was a really good partnership,” said Gleason.

As directors, Gleason and Hofeldt want their actors to have purpose in telling this story. “One of my biggest goals for this show is for the actors to know why they’re there. It should be a transformative experience for their lives as well as for the audience because I remember when I was in it in high school, by the end of the show a lot of the audience was crying as well as some of the cast members. It’s just an incredibly powerful story,” said Gleason.

Gleason and Hofeldt hope, most of all, to bring out the complexity of the play’s situational dynamics. “Just to be able to communicate the humanity of the story and, it sounds cliché, but really the struggle. Also, and Ingrid and I were talking about this, to not make this a martyr story. We really want to expose their [Jewish characters’] difficulties as well as hers. For students and faculty and townies alike, I really think this is a story that people need to know.”

“Irena’s Vow” will be performed 8th weekend.

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