BY PAUL DOWNER
Delano Public Schools
DELANO, MN Secret identities and a struggle for survival amidst one of the foremost tragedies of the 20th Century are the subjects of Delano High School’s fall play, “Hiding in the Open.”
Shows will be performed at 7 p.m. in the school auditorium Thursday and Friday, Nov. 2-3, and at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4.
Based on a true story, “Hiding in the Open” is about Sabina and Helka, two Jewish sisters who pretend to be Polish Catholics while working in a Nazi hotel in order to survive the Holocaust. The production is by Kira Obolensky and is based on the memoir by Sabina Zimering, a survivor who visited Delano a few years ago to share about her experiences.
“The show seemed to fit the kids who auditioned. Some of them had requested a serious drama,” said play director Barb Roy. “I thought with the tolerance awareness going on in Delano now, it would be a good choice.”
Telling a true story
The cast of about 20 students is led by senior Sydney Sinnott in the role of Zimering, and junior Mary Ludwig as her sister Helka.
“Sydney and Mary work so well together,” said Roy. “They have developed different and complete characters. They maintain a level of anxiety and fear while still acting like teenage sisters.”
Both Sinnott and Ludwig said they have done some of their own research into the characters they are playing.
“It’s harder to portray people who really exist rather than fictional characters just because you want to stay true to who they are,” said Sinnott. “The most challenging part is we haven’t gone through anything near what they went through, so it’s kind of hard to get into that mindset and show where they were at.”
Ludwig said she has appreciated the opportunity to help share a unique chapter in the story of the Holocaust.
“Their story is pretty impressive,” she said. “They worked at a Nazi hotel where Nazis lived and they pretended not to be Jewish, and they survived.”
Gwen Briesemeister, Delano’s instructor for gifted and talented students, produced a 10-minute documentary on Zimering a few years ago that provides an avenue for Zimering to tell her own story.
“The quality that really stood out for me when I was doing the documentary was that even though Sabina had experienced unbelievable events in her early life, she was still a compassionate person,” said Briesemeister. “She could feel for the sadness and loss of others, even those who would have been her enemies.”
Preparing the show
Roy said the rest of the cast has been “tireless and hardworking” since rehearsals began in mid-September, and that individuals like student director Stephanie McClelland have helped make the production a reality.
“She is the best,” Roy said. “She does it all organizes props, costumes, sets, runs lines, remembers blocking, and all with a smile.”
From a production standpoint, Roy said the show has required significant time to determine how to stage the ensemble scenes most effectively, and the chorus lines have also allowed for a variety of possibilities.
While working out the details, Roy has appreciated the willingness of her students to try new things, and she complimented their energy, enthusiasm and compassion.
“Theatrically, the show offers challenges in honest emotion and in developing a variety of characters,” she said.
Aside from the performance aspect, Sinnott said the opportunity to put on the play has been a way to keep history vibrant and engaging.
“It’s a really good learning experience. There are a lot of things about the Holocaust that we didn’t know before,” she said. “So it’s been a good way to learn more about that time and what happened to these people.”
To watch the documentary on Zimering, see https://vimeo.com/5479713.