Between studying for midterms, prepping for all the good pre-finals parties and waiting in line for Jon Stewart tickets, UCSB students have plenty going on in the next few weeks. With that said, there is one upcoming Arts & Lectures presentation that is worth stopping to check out – even if it isn’t quite as fun or funny as Jon Stewart’s impending appearance. Tonight, Arts & Lectures will present two performance pieces created by renowned Canadian theater professor, producer and director Judy Kopelow. The first piece, “White Rose,” will memorialize a group of students at the University of Munich – including the renowned Sophie Scholl and UCSB’s own Dr. Whittenstein – who published leaflets protesting the Nazis and eventually imprisoned, punished and often killed because of it. The second piece, “Children of a Vanished World” focuses on a group of photos of Jewish children from Eastern Europe, taken by Roman Vishniac during the 1930s as an attempt to capture these children before the Nazis killed them and their communities. According to Kopelow, both pieces are designed to memorialize the children and students who lost their lives during the Holocaust and to ensure that the atrocities of the Holocaust are never repeated. Recently, Artsweek sat down with Kopelow this week and got her take on “White Rose” and “Children of a Vanished World.”
What exactly can students expect to see at the event?
Kopelow: So what we basically do [in “Children of a Vanished World”] is that the entire book [of photographs] is performed. So, on one side of the stage is a violinist, cellist, clarinetist and a soprano and tenor and piano, and they perform a collection of children’s songs from that time in the book and then in the middle of stage is the images projected. It’s usually at least 10 by 15 feet. …They sort of make the children come alive in sort of an eerie way. And, on the other side of the stage is a narrator and the narration puts a historical context of these small Jewish communities [in the photographs]. And, also there’s a collection of children’s poetry that we recite…it’s sort of at the same time, a tragic remembrance of the loss of life and at the same time a real celebration of these children’s lives and their potential that was lost. …[In “White Rose”], the piece tells the story of two of the members of White Rose, a brother and sister – Hunt and Sophie Scholl. They represent all of White Rose, it just so happens the composer decided to have a dialogue between the brother and sister, and they reflect on their life… while preparing for death. It’s contemporary music, but there’s something about it that’s so accessible and it just makes you just feel like you’re part of something right when you’re part of this [opera].
Why did you decide to stage these two particular works?
Kopelow: With the children piece, I literally came across it. I’m going to admit it, they were on sale in the bookstore here and I had to buy 18 presents and they were in a big pile and it was like they were put in front of me. And, I literally opened it and I said to myself ‘I am going to stage this book and I am going to bring these children’s faces out of the book. ‘It just became a mission of love, these children’s faces…they were in my head all the time. I mean, I would dream about them…”White Rose,” I had never gone to the Holocaust Museum in Washington… and I went… as you leave the museum, you know the wall with all the righteous gentiles, there’s a photo on the wall of the White Rose members… and then I read about this group and I just thought ‘Who are these people?’… When I went home, I started to Google about it and I found there was this one-act opera composed about this group and I call the conductor I work with… if you come to the production, the other thing that was very interesting is the soprano that sings the part [of Sophie], I’ve worked with her for six years and she’s the exact same face as Sophie Scholl. …It’s like the same person, and she has a voice that can sing it beautifully.
Why should UCSB students go see this production?
Kopelow: I think for both of them, it’s sort of interesting, they’re different age spectrums in a way. For the children, it was children of all ages, certainly university students too that were annihilated, and weren’t allowed to reach their potential and I think, as students, we have an obligation to remember what was lost so these things aren’t repeated and, also a respectful remembrance and to learn from these lives that were snuffed out so early. The “White Rose” is a clear message for students that these were students who rose way above the bar in terms of their response to wrongdoing in their midst and they are an extraordinary example of what we can become.