Savannah Jewish Federation presents Anne & Emmett

Anne & Emmett, a play by Janet Langhart Cohen, is coming to Savannah starting Tuesday, Feb. 27th, in a production sponsored by the Savannah Jewish Federation.

Upon seeing the play, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg once said, “Anne & Emmett should be seen in every school in America!”

Michelle Allan, Program Director for the Savannah Jewish Federation said, “Anne & Emmett is an imaginary conversation, but so very real. It’s important as a society that we recognize how powerful our silence is.”  

Allan continued, “Anne and Emmett both died at the hands of horrible people, but they lived in societies that failed to protect them. The play examines the similarities in the two teens' experiences and horrific deaths. There is still hatred, bigotry and injustice in the world, and the play itself is, in a way, a call to action.”  

Allan concluded, “It’s important to see because it’s necessary. We are not as far removed from history as often may feel. It’s raw and beautiful and powerful and it is impossible to leave the production the same way you entered.”

Michelle Allan made it a priority for tickets to be free, “because this play is necessary and we don’t want there to be barriers for anyone in the community to witness this story.”

Sophia Sutton is cast in the role of Anne Frank. “Playing Anne Frank has given me the opportunity to revisit her story and really imagine what life was like for her through the details we have included in our staging of this story as well as what the playwright has highlighted. As a woman, imagining how much life changes when you are 13, and then to be in the midst of a war that forces you to hide with your family is definitely a difficult situation, but also one that also has an innately comedic effect that we wanted to share with the audience. Emmett and Anne’s stories are heartbreaking, but they were both very real teenagers who loved to laugh and enjoy life and I think that those moments we are invited to laugh with them is where as an actor, I truly feel at one with a character. 

click to enlarge Savannah Jewish Federation presents Anne & Emmett
Kristy Edenfield
On the set, the steamer chest and suitcase are Anne Frank's in the production of Anne & Emmett.

Selfishly, it’s also been nice to allow myself the drama of being a teenage girl again.”

The role of Emmett Till is being performed by Savannah Arts Academy sophomore Austin Bradford.  

“When I first got the role, my parents, grandparents and older family members kept telling me how big a deal it was for me to play Emmett Till, but I didn’t understand their excitement then. When I spoke with my non-African-American friends about the play, many of them had not even heard the story of Emmett Till. So now that I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about his story, I realize what my family was saying - this is a heavy role and this play is really necessary, especially for those people who don’t know his story. I feel this play is needed to educate them on the tragedy of his death and help them understand the importance of his legacy.

I feel like I got to know Emmett through this role. Although most people know about his death, my goal is to use this role to remind people that Emmett Till lived! Emmett was a normal kid, full of life, very intelligent and very mature but a fun-loving teenager - very much like me. I see myself in him, and I am honored that I get to portray him on stage.

I have not had the opportunity to play such a complex character, and I am just as excited to play this part, as I am for the audience to experience it.”

The play is being directed by Joanna Walchuk.    

Walchuk says that when she was approached about directing this work, she immediately said yes.

“Anne & Emmett is an invitation to connect with our own fear and hope, encouraging us to recognize the power we each have to shape a world free from injustice. Through the lens of Anne and Emmett, two regular kids, we are opening a window into our shared truth: that knowledge is the key to dismantling fear and fostering a world where empathy and compassion prevail.

click to enlarge Savannah Jewish Federation presents Anne & Emmett
Kristy Edenfield
On the set, a hat and chair are used by Emmett Till in the production of Anne & Emmett.

Janet Langhart Cohen explores the intersection of two powerful narratives, Anne Frank's Holocaust experience and Emmett Till's tragic story of racial injustice. This one-act play serves as a clear reminder of the enduring relevance of a shared history, urging us to confront the very present echoes of hate, discrimination, and persecution in our current world. Through the voices of Anne and Emmett, the play invites us to reflect with the simplicity of childhood on our humanity, empathy, and the need to break the cycle of hatred. It is a timely exploration that challenges audiences to confront uncomfortable truths and encourages dialogue about the persistent struggles for justice and equality.

We are faced with news of new tragedies in our daily lives. This play is a testament to enduring hope connecting truthful narratives, young voices, and the theatre to ignite meaningful conversation and bring about positive action. We can choose helplessness, or act on hope.”

In his weekly newsletter, Adam Solender, chief executive officer of the Jewish Educational Alliance, says that he cried twice while watching the dress rehearsal.

“Forty minutes later, when the actors finished their run-through, I was finally able to extricate myself....their performances, so powerful, the words, so meaningful, the stark stage and setting, so effective. Watching them on stage and listening to the words, I had tears in my eyes two times. At one point in the performance when Emmett Till was talking about his life, he slowly moved in to the fetal position....I found myself responding by pulling my body in close.

I lost myself in their stories and as many times as I've heard them, as many times that I've seen performances, heard lectures, or read books - this had such a forceful effect on me.

You too, have the opportunity to remember, to learn; in fact, you have five opportunities to see the performance beginning next Tuesday.

During these times of increasing antisemitism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the message of this play takes on even more importance and meaning...we hope you'll agree.”

Schedule of performances:

Tuesday, Feb. 27th at 7:00 p.m. at the JEA (5111 Abercorn Street)

Wednesday, Feb. 28th at 7:00 p.m. at St Matthew's Episcopal Church (1401 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard)

Saturday, March 2nd at 7:30 p.m. at the JEA

Sunday, March 3rd at 3:00 p.m. at the JEA (only Matinee performance)

Wednesday, March 6th at 6:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church (520 Washington Avenue)

It’s free and open to the community, but it’s important to RSVP for tickets to ensure space.

To RSVP visit:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe4Dbo2bf1Tin41L28ZdnBBmX0WosC7KNRCjLZn6heaRhVMNQ/viewform?usp=send_form

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