MIAMI BEACH) ̶ The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU has commissioned a new dramatic work based on the museum’s current exhibition, Stitching History from the Holocaust. The new one act play is called A Stitch in Time, and is about the true story of Paul and Hedwig “Hedy” Strnad who tragically perished in the Holocaust after failed attempts in 1939 to secure a visa to flee to the U.S. from Prague.
The young couple tried to escape the onslaught of the Nazis by sending sketches of Hedy’s clothing designs to prove she could earn a living in America with her talents, which was required at the time for immigration to the United States. Their attempts failed and they were denied a Visa, and they tragically perished in the Holocaust.
This new commissioned work was written by Miami playwright Susan Westfall and will be directed by Michael Yawney, associate professor of theater at Florida International University.
The accompanying exhibition, Stitching History from the Holocaust, originated at Jewish Museum Milwaukee and is on view at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU until March 19, located in the heart of South Beach’s Art Deco District, located at 301 Washington Avenue.
“The universal themes in this exhibition still resonate in today’s modern world, and inspired us to commission this original play,” said Jo Ann Arnowitz, the Museum’s Executive Director & Chief Curator. “The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is proud to bring this story to life for audiences in South Florida and the many tourists from around the world visiting Miami Beach this season. The messages of hope and perseverance in this story are just as striking now as they were almost eighty years ago.” The museum is presenting three live performances of the new one-act play it has commissioned, on January 29, February 1 and February 5.
Watch the compelling video about this story at youtube.com/watch?v=qrKoIjZvKVg.
View a digital tour of the exhibition at www.stitchinghistory.org to see photos of the young couple in Prague, Hedy’s design sketches, the dresses, and an educational program for teachers and students.
The dresses in the exhibition are based on the original fashion design sketches by Hedy Strnad that accompanied the couples’ letters requesting a U.S. visa. Decades later, the sketches were discovered by descendants of the original family that tried to help Paul and Hedy immigrate to America.
These designs were painstakingly brought to life by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater for the accompanying exhibition, using fabrics, colors and sewing techniques that are authentic to the late 1930s. Hedy’s drawings represented the height of fashion in 1939, providing a small window into the lives of Jews in Prague on the eve of World War II.
Although society was crumbling all around her at the time, when viewing these beautiful dresses it is inspiring to note that Hedy still managed to create designs that were glamorous, colorful and joyful.
Hedy’s designs also reveal another significant story: along with the loss of six million Jewish lives, the Holocaust also extinguished an incalculable amount of talent and creativity. As the New York Times review of this award-winning exhibition states, “The fashions are both text and textile, a story of life and death told in fabric … a recollection of mortality and persecution.” The timing of this production is meant to coincide with Holocaust Education Week. The exhibition is on view at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU until March 19.
The photo above shows the actual envelope – marked as „censored” by the Nazi-regime – found by relatives in the U.S. decades later. This envelope contained one of the letters pleading for help from Hedy and Paul Strnad as they tried in vain to get a visa to flee to the United States).
The new one-act play, created in Miami to accompany this exhibition, is called A Stitch in Time and premiered this weekend to sold-out audiences at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. This cultural institution is affiliated with Florida International University. This world premiere production features the actors Irene Adjan and Ricky J. Martinez, who portray Hedy and Paul Strnad. The production is sponsored by Jonathan Symons Bnai Mitzvah Project and Congregation Beth Jacob.
Tickets are $10 for members and students; $16 for non-members (includes admission to the museum and a tour of the accompanying exhibition led by the museum director). Tickets are available by phone at 786-972-3164, at the museum’s gift shop or online using the following links:
Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 7:00 p.m. – purchase tickets by clicking Here.
— Sunday, Feb. 5 at 3:00 p.m. – purchase tickets by clicking Here.
Susan Westfall – Playwright
Susan Westfall, the writer of this play, is the co-founder and Literary Director of City Theatre in Miami, Florida.
Westfall’s plays include Two Weekends and A Day (Kilroy honorary list 2015), Look At Me (“Best Short Plays 2011”), Rats, The Boy From Russia, Uprising, The Wedding Party, Passing Through (Heideman Finalist), With the Patience of Angels (Heideman Finalist), 1962, You Are Here, and Voices at the Mary Elizabeth Hotel.
Westfall is a member of the Dramatists Guild, The Playwrights Center, Theatre Communications Group, and the South Florida Theatre League.
Michael Yawney – Director
Michael Yawney, the Director of this play, wrote and directed Exile Jesus Starbucks as part of Miami Light Project’s „Here & Now” festival. He directed Rudi Goblen’s PET at Miami Light Project, Rebecca Joy Fletcher’s Ringing True at the Sandbox, Brundibar for Orchestra Miami, as well as Heather Woodbury’s 12-hour stand-up novel As the Globe Warms, which was seen at Austin’s Vortex Rep, L.A.’s Redcat and in Miami at FIU. His play 1,000 Homosexuals premiered at the Arsht Center. Yawney is currently Resident Dramaturg/Director of Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Playwright Development Program and is an associate professor in the theater department at Florida International University.
Irene Adjan (Hedy Strnad)
Irene Adjan (playing the role of Hedy Strnad), is a long-time member of the South Florida regional theater community. She has worked at all the major theaters, is an eleven-time Carbonell nominee, and has won the award three times.
Some of Adjan’s notable appearances include Funny Girl (New Vista, Parker Playhouse, Actors’ Playhouse), The Dead, Adding Machine, In the Next Room, and Casa Valentina (GableStage), Detroit, Assassins, and Moscow (Zoetic Stage), Summer Shorts 2002, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2014 (City Theatre), Les Miserables, Annie, Music Man (Maltz Jupiter Theatre), Ragtime, Joseph, 1776, and The Full Monty (Actors’ Playhouse), Smell of the Kill, Benefactors, and Night of the Iguana (Palm Beach Dramaworks). A proud member of Actors’ Equity Association, she is the Chair of the South Florida Equity Liaison Committee.
Ricky J. Martinez (Paul Strnad)
Ricky J. Martinez (playing the role of Paul Strnad) is an accomplished actor, playwright, dancer, choreographer, singer/song writer, musician, community leader and theatre activist. He is the recipient of the National 2016 Margo Jones Award and the 2016 Remy Pioneer Award. A spirited Cuban-American “theatre maker,” he is the former Artistic Director for New Theatre in Miami. As an award-winning Director, Martinez has been invited to direct for the MFA Playwrights’ Workshop at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival and Stanford University’s National Center for New Plays; James Madison University and the Forbes Center; Words A-fire festival in New Mexico; Ignition Fest at Victory Gardens, and other organizations across in the United States.
More about the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU
The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU serves as a major cultural attraction and source of information for a wide audience of residents, tourists, students and scholars of all ages and backgrounds from throughout the state, nation, and the world. Located in a former synagogue that housed Miami Beach’s first Jewish congregation, the museum’s restored 1936 Art Deco building and 1929 original synagogue are both on the National Register of Historic Places. The 301 building features nearly 80 stained glass windows, a copper dome, marble bimah and many Art Deco features including chandeliers and sconces. The Jewish Museum of Florida is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays and holidays. Admission: Adults $6; Seniors $5; Families $12; Members and children under 6 always free; Saturdays-Free.
For more information: 305-672-5044 or www.jewishmuseum.com.