HOLOCAUST THEATER INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVE BECOMES PART OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI’S SUE AND LEONARD MILLER CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY JUDAIC STUDIES.
Through research and educational programs, the Holocaust Theater International Initiative fills a void and is the only comprehensive universitybased initiative focused on the importance and relevance of holocaust-related theater.
CORAL GABLES, FL (January 19, 2017)
The National Jewish Theater Foundation (NJTF) and the University of Miami’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies (http://www.miami.edu/miller-center) have announced that the pioneering NJTF Holocaust Theater International Initiative (HTII) has become a part of the UM Miller Center, creating the first comprehensive university-based initiative of its kind.
The aim of the HTII is to advance research and educational programs – as well as to encourage theatrical productions – in support of its focus on the importance and relevance of Holocaustrelated theater in educating about, and commemorating the Holocaust.
Since 2007, the NJTF has presented theatrical works that celebrate the richness of Jewish heritage and culture. Under the leadership of Arnold Mittelman, its founder and president, the NJTF promotes the appreciation and preservation of Jewish musical and dramatic theatrical art. As one of the foremost performing arts organizations to focus exclusively on Jewish theater, NJTF is committed to educating the public on Jewish content and themes. NJTF productions are presented to diverse audiences across America and throughout the world. Please see www.njtfoundation.org.
It was their commitment to celebrating Jewish history, culture and artistry that inspired the leaders of NJTF to launch in 2010 a Holocaust Theater International Initiative (HTII) to fill a major void and examine how one of the greatest catastrophes in Jewish and world history has been made more understandable through the insights, creativity and courage of Jewish and nonJewish theatrical works during, and since the Holocaust. HTII has now become part of the University of Miami’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies. Mittelman was named the HTII’s founding director. It is the first comprehensive university-based initiative focused on Holocaust related theater research and educational programs, as well as encouraging related theatrical productions.
“Several years ago, over a lunch meeting, I proposed to Arnold Mittelman that he create a project dealing with Holocaust related theater – an important aspect of the Holocaust and its lessons that had not been systematically covered, said Dr. Haim Shaked, founding director of the UM Miller Center.
“Arnold, vigorously took on the challenge and, remarkably, developed the HTII to where it is today”, Shaked added. “I more than welcome the formal joinder of the HTII with the UM Miller Center, where –we hope – the HTII initiative will develop into its full capacity and make a significant contribution to educating about, and commemorating the Holocaust.”
The HTII grew out of a series of planning conferences and a major program grant funded to NJTF by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and NJTF private donors. Developed by more than 50 nationally recognized Holocaust scholars, archivists and theater artists, the HTII is guided by an Advisory Board whose members are listed below has developed into three major inter-related components:
(1) Holocaust Theater Catalog (HTII/HTC): An expanding digital catalog in the form of a website containing Holocaust related plays from 1933 to the present. The HTC includes informative, annotated entries and is intended for students, scholars, theater artists, teachers and the general public. This growing catalog of over 700 titles (presently listing plays in English and Hebrew) is publicly accessible free of charge. In 2014, it was gifted by NJTF to the UM Miller Center. HTC can be accessed at https://www.htc.miami.edu.
(2) Holocaust Theater Education (HTII/HTE): The development of syllabi, curricula, materials, techniques and workshops for the primary, secondary and higher education levels. HTII/HTE has created a classroom exercise “What I’ve Scene” with the USC Shoah Foundation IWitness program (please see https://iwitness.usc.edu). This internationally disseminated exercise uses students reading verbatim excerpts of survivor interviews supported by student created physical tableaus followed by teacher led discussions that reinforce the relevance of the testimony. HTII/HTE also works with the Association of Holocaust Organizations (AHO), the Alliance for Jewish Theatre (AJT), Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and other strategic and university-based partners to provide national and international educational outreach. Arnold Mittelman teaches a pioneering 300-level course in Holocaust related theater that is offered through UM’s College of Arts and Sciences Department of Theater Arts and George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies to all students at UM.
(3) Holocaust Theater Production (NJTF/HTII/HTP): The promotion of live domestic and international productions, including theater works to be recorded for digital access. NJTF/HTII/HTP acclaimed 2012 NYC play production “The Soap Myth” by Jeff Cohen was filmed and is being distributed internationally with a related documentary “I Will Refuse to Bubble” by the London-based Digital Theatre company (please see http://www.digitaltheater.com). During 2014, it was aired throughout the U.S. on PBS.
NJTF/HTII Annual Remembrance Theatrical Readings Program was started in 2015. This widely reported, expanding annual program is held on the eve of the Jewish Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah ve-HaGvurah). The program features simultaneous play readings across the U.S. and other parts of the world, of plays chosen by participants from the HTII/HTC.
The NJTF/HTII at UM Miller Center, by virtue of its inter-related three components, renowned Advisory Board, partners, staff and supporters, endeavors to fill an existing void and provides a critically needed entryway to the intersection of Holocaust related scholarship, education and theater arts. Through the integrated use of technology, teaching and live performance, it will bring together diverse communities to engage in education pertaining to the Holocaust at a time when our first and immediate exposure to the Holocaust, through the ultimate witnesses – the survivors – are quickly disappearing. It has become quite clear that – together with recorded Holocaust survivor testimonies; feature films, docudramas and documentaries – theater is a highly effective and impressionable educational tool with unique powers that can preserve the identities of the victims and survivors and teach the lessons of the Holocaust and its continued relevance in todays world.
“NJTF/HTII at UM Miller Center is greater than any one individual or institution and invites collaboration by artists, authors and playwrights, educators, students, Holocaust memorial organizations, audiences and those people who wish to use all aspects of theater research and analysis, performance, production and related training techniques as an artistic and moral compass that will educate and inspire current and future generations“, Mittelman said.
Future Goals of the HTII include:
1. Updating and expanding the HTC to include both new entries and entries in all relevant languages.
2. Ensuring worldwide exposure and use of the HTC.
3. Commissioning English translations of select HTC plays that exist in other languages and translation of select plays currently in English into other languages.
4. Developing study guides, syllabi, curricula, educational exercises, workshops and theatrical training techniques based on plays and entries contained in HTC.
5. Creating a methodology to integrate HTC educational materials into Holocaust related education.
6. Encouraging production (via NJTF) of Holocaust related plays in theaters throughout the world.
7. Creating access to productions of Holocaust related plays by recording them for the internet, screenings and broadcast dissemination.
8. Expanding the annual program of play readings drawn from material in HTC, on Holocaust Remembrance Day and as component of other commemorative events.
9. Conducting outreach activities, including workshops, to inform theater artists, scholars, educators and professionals who deal with teaching about, and commemorating the Holocaust about the HTII at UM Miller Center: the HTC, HTE and HTP purpose, content and potential applications.
10. Convening inter-disciplinary conferences dealing with the integration of Holocaust related theatrical work in teaching about, and commemorating the Holocaust.