Testimonials

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I'm sure hardly any of my students had ever heard of Etty Hillesum before Susan Stein came to Brandeis. But I doubt anyone will ever forget her again now. By giving her voice to the Dutch philosopher's incredibly moving testimony of life in Westerbork concentration camp, Susan Stein celebrates Etty's unflinching belief in humanity in the face of unthinkable evil. What touched me most was Stein's portrayal of Etty as a passionate woman who loved absolutely everything about life--sex and strawberry cake, God and poetry, Rilke and Dostoevsky, men and women. Her fascination with Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism is a wonderful inspiration for the dialogue our time so desperately needs. With her play Stein accomplishes something remarkable: She allows the young woman writer to triumph over the Nazis sixty years after they murdered her in Auschwitz.

Sabine von Mering, Ph.D., Associate Professor of German and Women's and Gender Studies Director, Center for German and European Studies Brandeis University

Susan brought Etty to our playwriting workshop last spring. I can still remember the way in which the room was immediately transformed the moment Susan stepped into Etty's shoes. A room of women diverse in age, background and interest became intimately involved in the life and struggles of a woman we never knew. We watched Etty as she saw a Nazi solider picking yellow flowers. We thought about our own beliefs as we heard Etty questioning her faith in God. It was more than a performance — it was a shared experience. We were invited into the private places of Etty's suitcase and Susan's writing process and because of this we asked deeper questions of ourselves, and of each other. In this room full of writers, ranging from 13 to 70 years old, I saw emerge in all of us the courage to share both our writing and our doubts, taking our cues from Etty.

Meghan McNamara, Program Director, Girls Write Now

It has been a long time since I have seen a play that provides such powerful and challenging insights into how a person can come to terms with our human capacity for good and evil. Using a set that consists of a suitcase and a chair, Ms. Stein eloquently evokes Etty's circumstances and moral dilemmas. While the play addresses one of the saddest chapters in history, it also affirms Etty's life and enduring importance and portrays her as a three-dimensional character with a sense of humor and perspective.

I understand there are more than one version of the play, depending on the age of the audience and the time available for the performance. In our case Ms. Stein held the audience — both students in grades 9-12 and teachers alike — spellbound for almost an hour

If you are ever looking for a play that will engage and challenge its audience and stimulate good discussion afterwards, I would enthusiastically recommend Etty.

Rist Bonnefond, Headmaster, Kents Hills School

Susan Stein's performance of the play Etty was more than powerful; it was mesmerizing. The story itself was quite moving. As I sat in the front row, from time to time Ms. Stein stood right in front of me, perhaps two feet away, and looked me directly in the eye for what seemed like a long time. I have never experienced anything like that before. The intensity, integrity, and intimacy, not to mention the surprise of connecting so personally with the character/performer in real time, proved to be a riveting and wonderful, even enchanting experience. Ms. Stein was completely convincing as being the complex and engaging character she portrayed. Go see this play!

John W. Corwin, Interim CEO for Nonprofits Corwin Consulting, LLC

Susan Stein is a playwright and performer of exceptional talent. Speaking in the voice of Etty Hillesum, she mesmerizes the audience with a monologue of enormous depth of thought, of love and hate, fear and hope, despair and resilience, wit and humor.

Ulla Reidel, German Professor Emeritus, Colby College

It wasn't like watching a play, it wasn't like watching a movie. It was like sitting inside her memories, watching them unfold from behind her own eyes. It is truly one of the most moving, poignant, and evocative performances I have ever seen.

Justin, Junior High School Student, Kents Hills School

We had the tremendous privilege of having Susan perform Etty at both our Camden and New Gloucester campuses in September and October 2012.

Her performances expanded and illuminated a five-week unit I was teaching on the Holocaust in a way I couldn’t have imagined. Susan’s performance lasted approximately 45 minutes with a further 45 minute discussion afterwards which she facilitated wonderfully. Our students, many of whom had never seen a one person play before, were able to share their experiences both of the subject matter and as a viewer of the performance.

Susan worked with us and was able to tailor her performance to the needs and time restrictions of our academic schedule as well as omitting certain elements that may have not suited our year group. She also adapted the performance to two very different locations: a conference room on one campus and a disused hen house on the other. I would without reserve, recommend Etty and would be happy to answer any further questions you may have.

Tom Butler, Opportunity Farm for Boys and Girls

Dear Susan,

I can not thank you enough for your wonderful performance yesterday. Everyone I spoke with, faculty, staff, students, all had nothing but high praise for the performance. You really touched a nerve within the theme of social justice. A colleague said that your performance was the "best work" she has seen performed here at NDA. You were magnificent, to say the very least. I would like to bring the play back next year.

Regina Timmerman, Notre Dame Academy

I have seen Etty four times now … each time I meet a different Etty — not a new version of the old Etty, but a different side to a woman I feel I have known all my life. This performance does more than bring Etty's inspirational words to life: it challenges the audience with a renewal of Etty's strength, passion, and pure love in a world that has betrayed her.

Lindsay, Student, Columbia University

Susan Stein's Etty is a powerful, moving, and thought-provoking performance. The words of Etty Hillesum that come alive in this play engage so many facets of life under Nazi rule, both profound and mundane. Susan Stein vividly captures Etty's distinctive responses to the ethical, religious, social, and personal challenges faced by so many Jews and non-Jews during the Holocaust. The emotions Etty inspires range from deep sorrow to soaring hope, but perhaps the primary audience response is empathy. This play is a fine addition to the programmatic offerings of high schools and universities as well as cultural and religious organizations.

Rabbi David Freidenreich, Pulver Family Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies, Colby College

In the pauses between the chapters of her life, one finds oneself imagining the wider world that Etty inhabited … The sparseness of the set, if it may even be called that, draws the open mind into the world of Etty more effectively than the most dazzling of light and picture shows could have. The audience you had today was unused to such lack of stimulation . . . I could feel heavy in the air this tension between us and you, as it seemed you struggled to push back the apathy that is the unfortunately natural state of the initially uninterested. Never did that take me out of the play, though. If anything it enhanced the very real struggle Etty was having to put pen to paper and tell her then-theoretical audience about her life. From the level of Etty living her life, to Etty writing about it in her diary, to the artists interpreting raw words for stage, to the performance of the dialogue on stage, to the witness of the performance by the audience, I could feel all levels of humanity ringing true. What endures is the emotional journey that we all went on together.

Geoffrey, High School Student, Brookfield Academy

Etty's life was so difficult and her thoughts and feelings so complex that experiencing a little bit of her through your play has done more than just give me an idea of what those persecuted and killed by the Nazis during WWII went through … Whether Etty was a good or bad person had no bearing in the way I interpreted your performance, there was simply the whirlwind of emotions. The parts where I sat happily content to listen. The parts where I cried at the injustice, and the parts where I sat in wonder. There are very few points in a person's life where there is a moment or memory that they will remember as long as they live. If it is just one line of a poem, or book, or play. Just one scene or picture that will change them. These moments shatter then rebuild our perspectives … I am happy to say that watching you perform Etty was one of those moments for me.

Kaela, High School Student, Garfield High School

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