On Oct. 29 at the Phoenix Theatre in Victoria, there will be a one-night-only performance of Wendy Kout’s play Survivors, which is touring schools this month. (photo by Peter Nadler)
In light of the success of last year’s pilot tour, the educational play Survivors is touring middle and secondary schools throughout Vancouver Island this month. And, with the support of the University of Victoria, there will be one public performance of the play this month: at the Phoenix Theatre, Oct. 29, 2 p.m. Last year’s public shows sold out.
Following the mistaken honouring in Parliament recently of Ukrainian-Canadian Yaroslav Hunka, who fought in a Nazi unit during the Holocaust, there should no longer be any doubt about the ignorance of the history of the Holocaust. This conclusion is further supported by the existence of monuments in Canada that honour Nazi veterans who were members of the Galicia division of the SS in Ukraine. Furthermore, Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon has apologized for the Order of Canada given to Peter Savaryn in 1987. Savaryn was chancellor of the University of Alberta and president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta in the 1980s – he also served with the Waffen-SS, a voluntary Nazi unit in Ukraine during the Second World War.
A 2019 study done by the Azrieli Foundation, Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Claims Conference revealed Canadians’ lack of knowledge of this period in history. For example: 62% of millennials did not know that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust and 22% of millennials hadn’t heard or were not sure if they had heard of the Holocaust. Nearly one-quarter of all Canadians believe that substantially fewer than six million Jews were killed (two million or fewer) during the Holocaust.
History shows that when it comes to racist attacks and xenophobia, Jews are often the “canary in the coal mine.” Holocaust awareness and education could not be more timely or important. “We’re not just telling history,” said Survivors playwright Wendy Kout. “We’re telling history as a cautionary tale for the present and the future.”
Survivors explores hatred, the capacity to survive and thrive, and serves as a call to consciousness of the present challenges. Combining history with life lessons, the audience is guided through a time when hatred was normalized. The audience is both uplifted by the survivors’ triumphs and inspired to take action against present and future racism.
The play tells a chronological history of the Holocaust through the personal prism of experience, interweaving the stories of 10 Holocaust survivors, four of whom were still alive when the play premièred in New York in 2018. Though each has a unique story, all the survivors “went through this horror and came through the other side to build meaningful, contributing, beautiful lives,” said playwright Wendy Kout.
The Victoria production of Survivors will be touring throughout the four Western provinces for the next few years. For more about those tours and the organizations collaborating on them, visit jewishindependent.ca/theatre-that-educates and holocausttheatre.com. For tickets to the Oct. 29 matinée at Phoenix Theatre, go to eventbrite.ca.
– Courtesy Victoria Theatre Productions