Sala Garncarz spent five years in seven labor camps during World War II, but survived the Holocaust. In the play, “Letters to Sala,” her story is told after she gives her daughter, Ann Kirschner, correspondence that was hidden away for decades.
Redondo Union High School Theatre Arts presents “Letters to Sala,” from Dec. 7 to 9, at the Redondo Union Auditorium.
“It doesn't just focus on the Holocaust, it focuses on families of the future generations and the impact that their parents' experiences or their grandparents' experiences have on them,” said Theater Arts Director Melissa Staab. “The big question the play is asking: 'How do we handle these horrific events that didn't happen to us, but now are given to us based on our birthright?'”
The students received a crash course on the Holocaust through research, visiting the Museum of Tolerance and attending a speech by a Holocaust survivor. They were also able to Skype with Kirschner. At 95-years old, Garncarz is still alive.
The play flashes between current day with Sala, her daughter and two granddaughters, and back to the war. Danielle Silkes plays the older Sala.
“It's been difficult to connect fully with her ... being a teenage girl playing an elderly woman and also the whole mindset that she did go through these terrible times,” said Silkes. But, the student actress said it was easier after researching and talking to Kirschner.
Liana Moore plays the young Sala, and she had the same challenges as Silkes. But she was also able to connect with the character personally.
“She has a lot of the same quality to her that I see in myself,” Moore said. “She's very positive and hopeful. I see myself as that innocent person who goes through everything with optimism.”
Ala Gertner, who is portrayed by Sterling Goddard, helped Sala and many others survive the camps. But she didn't survive. She was hung at Auschwitz for blowing up a crematorium two weeks before the camp was liberated.
Goddard said when they talked to Kirschner, “everything connected.”
“When Ann said, 'Ala was my muse,' that's when I broke down,” Goddard said. “Ala is the reason Sala survived. It's the reason that this woman's mother is still alive today. It's the reason she has grandchildren and why her family has been able to grow.”
Even with the horror depicted in “Letters to Sala,” Silkes said the play is “very hopeful.”
“It's more about hope than it is about despair and sadness … ultimately the whole goal is to get across that there is hope and if you keep the hope alive good things will come to you,” Silkes said.
Performances of “Letters to Sala,” which is written by Arlene Hutton, based on a book by Kirschner, takes place Dec. 7, 8 and 9, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m.
For more information, visit ruhsdrama.com.