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Collaboration brings to the stage stories of women who embraced the arts to survive

March 2, 2016

It was a very special evening—a labor of love and the product of intense collaboration—when Stephens women performed “Traces in the Wind,” a tone poem of remembrance.

Developed by Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, dean of the School of Performing Arts, the project evolved when she brought her ideas to Stephens’ faculty and community. Tom Andes, instructor of music, composed original music. Andes and Humphries Mardirosian developed the lyrics.

Pleased with how the work came together, Humphries Mardirosian said “It’s wonderful how music gives it life. It touches another sensibility.”

Women from Stephens College performed the words of female survivors of the Holocaust. “These are women who embraced the arts as a strategy for survival, spiritual resistance or just because of who they were as individuals,” said Humphries Mardirosian.  “These stories remind us of the deep power of the arts. We hope this will serve as a tribute to the courage and creativity of these survivors—and as a conduit to each of us.”

Tuesday evening’s performance in Historic Senior Hall was a preview of the performance scheduled for this Saturday at Abramson Family Recital Hall at American University in Washington, D.C. That event will be part of the International Psychoanalytical Association’s conference titled The Courage to Fight Violence Against Women.

The stories presented included those of Charlotte Delbo who was arrested for distributing anti-Nazi reading material. She was sent to Auschwitz as part of one of the few non-Jewish prisoner convoys. She later wrote plays about her experiences. Her story was portrayed by student Katherine Moore.

Rosie Glazer was betrayed by her ex-husband, a Nazi-party member, for operating an illegal dance studio. She was sent to a series of seven concentration camps, the last of which was Auschwitz. Glazer survived by teaching dance and etiquette to her captors in the camps. Her story was portrayed by student Clara Bentz.

Eva Kavanova worked as a dramaturge, author and teacher. During the war, she was sent to a Nazi transit camp. She survived to become a professor at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and a costume designer. Her story was portrayed by student Lauren Hardcastle.

Abilene Olson, another student, performed as the narrator. Jayme Brown served as production stage manager and dramaturge. Jamie Casagrande served as costume designer.

Brandi Coleman, visiting artist, developed the movement. Pam Ellsworth-Smith, associate professor of vocal arts, served as vocal coach. Dialect coach was Paula Cavanaugh Carter. Script consultant was Barbara Oliver Korner.

After the event, a talkback was led by Greg Ochoa, interim dean of graduate and continuing studies.

“I am so honored to have had so many faculty, students and friends of the School of Performing Arts support this work,” said Humphries Mardirosian who also served as director. “We had a robust house, including students, faculty, staff, family members and community, and substantive dialogue at the talkback session.” Now its onto D.C.





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