An historical drama by K. Scott Baker, Andrew Stuart Bergerson, and Deborah Parker.
The letters of Hilde and Roland lend themselves to adaptation as an historical drama for many reasons. There is drama in their self-presentation as letter writers, in the challenges they face at building their relationship, and in their struggles to come to terms with both the Nazi regime and its increasingly genocidal war for ‘living space’. Adapting these letters to the theater in translation allows us to bring the T&S project to an English-speaking audience for the first time.
In Fall 2016, the international T&S team identified the most “dramatic” letters from the years 1938 to 1940—the period of Hilde and Roland’s courtship. In the Winter of 2016–17, an American team translated a selection of letters (in whole or in part) and drafted a two-act “reader’s theater” style play from them. Beate Pettigrew directed the play with a cast of students from Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS. The play premiered on 20 May 2017 at the Diastole Scholar’s Center on UMKC campus. (A second free, public performance of the play will take place June 4 at 2 PM in Grant Recital Hall on UMKC Campus.)
At its premier, the play was performed in the context of a workshop “Writing Yourself into History.” The workshop brought scholars, students, and Kansas City residents to the Diastole Scholar’s Center in order to view the play and respond to it. The participants were invited to watch a series of short, digital lectures that framed the play for non-specialists. After attending each act, the workshop participants were invited to discuss the play in groups with discussion leaders. At the end of the workshop, individual participants were interviewed about their responses to Hilde & Roland’s lives; their letters; and the play; and they were also prompted to relate Hilde & Roland’s history to their or their family’s experiences and to explore the meanings that this past might hold for our present.
The program for the play is available here. A digital record of this play and workshop is available on T&S’s YouTube channel (playlist: Writing Yourself into History) including the introductory lectures and a filmed version of the premier performance. Recordings of the individual and group discussions in response are available from the project directors.
The Humanities Consortium of UMKC sponsored this program with cooperation of the UMKC departments of German, History, and Theatre; the UMKC School of Graduate Studies; the High School/College DualCredit Partnership; Johnson County Community College; the Lee’s Summit School District; the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education; the Shepherd’s Center KC Central; and the Missouri Humanities Council with the support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.