The Stephens College cast of “Traces in the Wind” returned to Washington D.C. on Jan. 17 for another performance of the tone poem of remembrance.
This time the group appeared before the Embassy of the Czech Republic to which Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, dean of the School of Performing Arts, has strong ties.
“Traces in the Wind” was developed one and a half years ago by Mardirosian, who worked with various Stephens theatre and musical theatre students on the piece. Tom Andes, instructor of music, composed original music and worked with Mardirosian to develop the lyrics. The group gave a performance last spring at Stephens before traveling to Washington D.C. for a showing at the International Psychoanalytical Association’s conference at American University.
The piece is based on writings from three Czech survivors of Terezin, a Nazi transit camp located 45 miles outside of Prague.
“The words of three extraordinary women who were betrayed, humiliated, deprived of normal living conditions and incarcerated, experienced a great depth of psychological and physical abuse and, yet, survived, were used as the matrix for the presentation,” Mardirosian said. “It seemed as if each of these exceptional women had used their art as some form of sustenance and it gave them some renewal, at least for the soul.”
Mardirosian said it’s impossible for her to fully comprehend the circumstances under which the women suffered.
“Yet, as an artist, there was such a compelling empathy generated from reading their writings,” she said, “that I felt an extraordinary desire to share their words.”
The stories presented include those of Charlotte Delbo, portrayed by Katherine Moore ’17, Rosie Glazer, portrayed by Clara Bentz ’17 and Eva Kavanova, portrayed by Lauren Hardcastle ’16.
Abilene Olson ’17 performs as the narrator; Jayme Brown ’17 serves as production stage manager and dramaturge; and Jamie Casagrande ’17 designed the costumes. Brandi Coleman, visiting artist, developed the movement. Pam Ellsworth-Smith, associate professor of vocal arts, served as vocal coach. Dialect coach was Paula Cavanaught Cater. Script consultant was Barbara Oliver Korner.
Mardirosian’s work with Czech theatre began in 2000 when she was invited by the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences, an international nonprofit organization promoting Czech and Slovak cultural and intellectual contributions, to present the American debut of a play written by the famous Czech playwright Josef Topol. This led to many subsequent performances and presentations sponsored by the Embassy and performed in Washington D.C., as well as invitational lectures at various universities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and Bohemia Hall in New York City.
In addition, Mardirosian’s work with the Embassy of the Czech Republic represents an important connection to her personal life.
“My mother was Czech and Slovak and this work connects me to my roots in so many ways,” she said. “I am also driven by a conviction to theatre for social justice.”
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