blackbirdonline journalSpring 2016  Vol. 15 No. 1

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IRENE ZIEGLER | The Little Lion

Introduction and Table of Contents

 John Mincks, Caleb Wade
 Photo by Robyn O’Neill
       Cast and Crew
     Novelist’s Notes
     Artistic Director’s Notes
     Act 1
     Act 2

Irene Ziegler’s adaptation of The Little Lion (based on a novel of the same title by Nancy Wright Beasley) brings us a harrowing glimpse into a Jewish ghetto in Kovno, Lithuania, during World War II. After the city’s occupation by German troops, approximately 29,000 Jews were forced into the Slobodka district, where they provided forced labor to the Nazis. The Jewish population worked diligently to record the living conditions in the ghetto, discreetly sketching, photographing, and documenting the crimes committed against them by Germans and native Lithuanians. They buried most of their artifacts shortly before October 29, 1941, a date known as the “Great Action,” when 9,200 Jews were exterminated and buried in mass graves at the Ninth Fort nearby.

Ziegler dramatizes the real accounts of life in the ghetto with a sharp, unflinching gaze and asks her audience to bear witness to the characters’ joy and despair, their caution and their optimism. The act of witness may be the most important one of all, and the characters in Ziegler’s play believe that building a better world is possible only by embracing the truth, however horrible it may be. As one character says, “History springs from facts, and hope springs from history.”

The Little Lion premiered on January 28, 2016 at Swift Creek Mill Theatre in South Chesterfield, Virginia. The theatre commissioned an adaptation from Ziegler of Beasley’s novel to commemorate their fiftieth anniversary season.

Blackbird’s presentation includes the play in two acts; notes from Tom Width, the artistic director of the production at Swift Creek Mill Theatre; notes from Nancy Wright Beasley, the original novelist; and a complete list of the production’s cast and crew.

Featured throughout the presentation are photographs by Robyn O’Neill from the Swift Creek Mill Theatre production and archival images from the ghetto in Kovno, provided by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, and German Historical Institute.   bug

   Contributor’s notes

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