Holocaust play gets fall premiere

J.E. Ballantyne Jr. will take another shot at a topic that has been a source of inspiration for him: the Holocaust.

The longtime local playwright and director has written a new play titled “A Light in the Darkness: A Story of Hope During the Holocaust.” It will get its world premiere in October at Victorian Players Theatre in Youngstown.

The play, co-produced by Victorian Players and J&B Production Arts Services, is about Eva Schloss, who is the stepsister of Anne Frank, and her family. It takes place before, during and in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Schloss was a prisoner of the Nazis and spent nine months in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II.

Based on the book “The Promise” by Schloss and Barbara Powers, it’s a story of hope that details how Schloss’ family is taken prisoner as Adolf Hitler’s war machine sweeps across Europe.

The Victorian Players traditionally present an Edgar Allan Poe adaptation in October for Halloween but will make a change this year to accommodate the schedule of Schloss, who lives in London. Schloss intends to come to Youngstown for the premiere, as does her co-author, Powers.

Schloss last came to Youngstown in 2005 for the premiere of Ballantyne’s earlier Holocaust play, “Block 5.” Ballantyne reprised “Block 5” a couple years ago at the Victorian with largely the same cast.

Paintings done by Schloss’ brother, Heinz, while he was in hiding from the Nazis, will be displayed at The Vic for the premiere of “A Light in the Darkness.” The paintings survived the Holocaust and are on display in a museum in Amsterdam.

A more-famous play about Schloss (and fellow Holocaust survivor Ed Silverberg), “And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank,” by James Still, premiered in 1996 and has since been performed worldwide.

“Light” differs from “And Then They Came for Me” in its greater detail and also because is a full-length play. But both plays employ a multimedia presentation, including taped interviews with the Holocaust survivors.

When writing “Light,” Ballantyne said he tried to stay away from things that were dealt with in “And Then They Came for Me” to give the theatergoer an entirely different look at Schloss’ experiences.

“A Light in the Darkness: A Story of Hope During the Holocaust” will open Oct. 14 and run for three weekends. Daytime school performances are being considered, or special rates for students for evening performances.

“Eva is very excited about this show and is already suggesting possibilities for productions in other parts of the country,” said Ballantyne. For more information about Schloss, go to evaschloss.com.

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