Square One Theatre Takes IRENA’s VOW to Students at Stratford and Bunnell High Schools
Following the tremendous success of Square One Theatre’s mainstage production of Irena’s Vow two seasons ago, teachers requested that it be presented to students in both Bunnell and Stratford High Schools to enhance the teaching unit about World War II and the holocaust.
A truly life-affirming story about one of wartime’s most courageous and unsung heroines, the play tells the true story of Irena Gut Opdyke, a strong-willed young woman, who during the Nazi occupation of Poland was forced to work as head housekeeper for a prominent Nazi major. Over a two year period of service, Irena would be confronted with the choice of protecting twelve Jewish refugees who secretly fell under her care. Determined to help, she decided to hide them in the safest place she could think of…the basement of the Nazi officer’s house. This is the extraordinary true story of one woman’s choice and the twelve lives that would live or die by her decision.
The students showed a great deal of pride when Director Tom Holehan informed them that relatives of Irena’s (the late George Opdyke and his wife Daphne) lived in Stratford. In fact Daphne attended one of the mainstage performances and talked with the audience about “Aunt Irena” in a post-performance discussion.
Holehan adapted the production to fit the length of the student class periods at each school. Members of the original cast re-created their roles including Peggy Nelson (Hamden) in the title role of Irena, along with Janet Rathert (New Canaan) and Al Kulcsar (Fairfield).
This is the eleventh year Square One Theater has taken stage productions into the Stratford Schools. For each production, Square One provides study guides for the teachers to use in the classrooms and invites the students and faculty to participate in post-performance discussions with the actors and the director.
These educational programs are subsidized by People’s United Bank.
In 2005, Square One Theatre received “The Friend of Education” Award from the Stratford Board of Education for its work with the schools.