On March 11th of this school year, Helen Mintz, a local writer and performer, presented her play entitled “Keeping the Promise”. This play is about a fictional character named Paula who learns of her mother’s experiences during the time of the Holocaust.
Helen performed for fifty-five grade eight students (no small feat) in my classroom. Her high energy and creatively presented performance kept my students rapt and completely silent for forty-five minutes. Her play helped put a “face” on the information the students had read previously, and provided not only a vehicle for discussion of the horrors of the Holocaust, but also the triumph of those who survived and the multifaceted and confused feelings of many survivors. Given the thoughtfulness of their comments and questions in the twenty-five minute discussion following the play, it was clear that the students had become caught up in the performance.
Helen is open about her reasons for creating this play, the research involved, and how the play came to fruition. She built a strong rapport with the students during her short time in my classroom.
As a follow-up to the presentation, I had the students write poems to Helen about their feelings concerning her presentation and/or the Holocaust in general. In many cases the poems were insightful and showed profound leaps in sensitivity and in critical thought by their recognizing the relationship between the Holocaust and current political problems in the world. There is no doubt that Helen’s performance enhanced the unit I have developed on the subject of the Holocaust and made this historical time period not just historical, but a part of the present.
Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School