Children’s theater festival opens with Holocaust play

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jul 22, 2013 - 20:00
  • Updated : Jul 22, 2013 - 20:00
A scene from “Else’s Story,” which opened this year’s ASSITEJ Korea Summer Festival on Thursday. (ASSITEJ Korea Summer Festival)
It’s unusual to see a play about the Holocaust at a children’s event, but last week “Else’s Story,” a play about a child who survived Auschwitz, premiered at the opening of the 21st ASSITEJ Korea International Summer Festival, Korea’s largest theater festival for kids.

Under the theme “Embrace the World, Butterfly,” the festival is showcasing 11 performances from six different countries, including three Korean works.

This year, the festival also celebrates 130 years of diplomatic ties between Korea and Germany, with three German theater productions being showcased, including “Else’s Story.”

A play by Junges Theater Heidelburg and directed by Nada Kokotovic, “Else’s Story” retells the true story of 8-year-old Else, a Roma and Sinti child, who was sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis.

“I think it’s very important for people even at a young age to deal with history. But universally, it is a story about prejudices that needs to be told. This is a horrible example of racism,” Franziska-Theresa Schuetz, the artistic director of Junges Theater Heidelberg, said at Sejong Center in Seoul on Thursday.

Schuetz said that staging “Else’s story” for children was difficult as it dealt with a sensitive topic.

“The big challenge was how to tell this story to children without them getting completely traumatized.”

ASSITEJ Korea President Kim Sook-hee said that she selected the play to open the festival because of the similar history of war that Korea shared with Germany.

“Korean children don’t know what is war and what is battle. Korea has a similar history to Germany, especially as we are always threatened by North Korea. But children cannot imagine the tragedy. So with the historical story, I’d like to give the children something new to think about.”

ASSITEJ is an international association for children and young people that first came to Korea in 1982 and held its first international festival in 1993.

Today, ASSITEJ has 132 local Korean members including theater companies, playwrights, academics and producers.

This year’s ASSITEJ Korea International Summer Festival is being held at the Sejong Center from July 18 to July 28, showcasing performances from Korea, Germany, Italy, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands and Japan.

By Astha Rajvanshi  (astha_raj06@gmail.com)