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Acting in Terezín by Vlastá Schönová, translated from the Czech and introduced by Helen Epstein; with an Afterword by Marsha L. Rozenblit (17,000 words)
An unusual memoir by a professional actress in Ghetto Theresienstadt. Vlasta Schönová, or Vava as she was known, began her theater career as a teenager before the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. For a while, she was able to continue acting by passing as a non-Jew. After her deportation to Terezín, she performed, directed and wrote plays as a prisoner. Theater, she writes, invested her life with meaning and kept her alive, even in the most deadly circumstances.
Based on a notebook the actress kept, Acting in Terezín is translated from the Czech by Vava's cousin, Helen Epstein, author of Children of the Holocaust and Where She Came From. It features seven extraordinary theater posters from the Terezín Memorial's collection.
Acting in Terezín is excerpted from Vlasta Schönová's memoir Chtěla jsem být herečkou (I Wanted to be An Actress), published in Prague in 1993. A Hebrew edition was published in Israel in 1991 as Lehiyot Sachkanit (To Be an Actress) and translated into English by Michelle Fram Cohen (Hamilton Books, 2010). Both books describe Vava's life before the war in Prague, and after the war in Israel.
"A powerful, original narrative, pungently translated, that reveals the vulnerability of women during the Holocaust and shows the reader a broad cast of characters – from rescuers with moral convictions to those who sexually abused their charges." – Eva Fogelman, Ph. D., author of Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust
"I saw Schönová perform Cocteau in Terezín in 1943. Today I see the play as a piece of kitsch. Then, I was mesmerized by her performance. I was 18 years old and for an hour or so I was lifted out of the camp environment to somewhere in Paris... free." – Lily Reiser, MSW and Terezín survivor
"As an artist, what I find most powerful in this memoir is how Vava transformed impossibly hopeless experience into something not only livable but meaningful through theater." – Rochelle Rubinstein