The Suburban’s Mike Cohen previews Hana’s Suitcase: “We are close to losing the last survivors and so I think it’s a vital time to be telling this story.” – Dean Patrick Fleming
Read on The Suburban’s website: Hana’s Suitcase returns with the same intended message about the Holocaust
By Mike Cohen
For Geordie Productions’ Artistic Director Dean Patrick Fleming, the opportunity to bring the critically acclaimed play Hana’s Suitcase back to Montreal for a second time after its debut here eight years ago was a virtual no brainer. Performances will take place at Concordia’s downtown D.B. Clarke Theatre Nov. 5 to 15.
The play tells the true story of how in March of 2000 a suitcase arrived from Auschwitz to the Tokyo Holocaust Educational Resource Centre in Japan with only “Hana Brady,” a birthdate and the word “Waisenkind” (orphan) written on its side. Fumiko Ishioka, the centre’s curator, went on a journey across Europe and North America to unveil the mystery. Since the first the story of Hana’s Suitcase was told in a radio documentary, it has been published as a book translated into over 10 languages and made available in more than 30 countries.
Hana’s Suitcase was written by Montrealer Emil Sher and is based on the multi-award winning bestseller by Canadian author Karen Levine.
“It’s been very gratifying to see how this play continues to resonate with audiences a decade after it first premiered,” Sher said from Toronto. “The enduring power of the story that unfolds on stage is what drew me to it in the first place.”
Employing a cast of eight and using multimedia and other innovative staging techniques, the play takes place between two timeframes: Tokyo in 2000, when the children and Ishioka began their search into the identity of Hana Brady; and Czechoslovakia in the 1930s and ’40s, where Hana (played by Caroline Toal) and her family ultimately became victims of the Nazis. Noah Spitzer portrays Hana’s brother George Brady, who today lives in Toronto.
“I think everyone who sees the play will get a different message,” says Spitzer. “Some of the young people who see this play are in Grades 5 or 6, and for many of them this will be the first time they hear about the Holocaust. Because of this, there is a huge responsibility on the part of everyone involved in this production to respect whatever previous knowledge our audience may have of the Holocaust, especially if they are learning about it for the first time.”
Toal said that she had read Hana’s Suitcase as part of our curriculum in Grade 5. “I remember falling in love with the book immediately,” she says. “I think the message of this play is to remain hopeful.”
Adds Fleming: “We are close to losing the last survivors and so I think it’s a vital time to be telling this story. I would also say that it’s a perfect time to bring it back. Eight years later there is now a whole new generation who gets to experience it and for those who did see it before they will experience it on whole different level.”
Hana’s Suitcase will be presented at the D.B. Clarke Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) Nov. 5 to 15. The age recommendation is nine and up. For more information call 514-845-9810 or log on to www.geordie.ca