The Spirit of Life

by  David F. Eliet, Yaffa Eliach

Short Play, Drama  /  3m, 6f

“Your play showed that human nature was not narrow-minded and through that whole experience the good of the human soul did triumph over evil.” – Jennifer L., student
"The Spirit of Life is a great portrayal of the Jewish experience.” – Melissa J., student

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    3m, 6f
  • Duration

    Duration

    40 minutes
  • SubGenre

    Subgenre

    Adaptations (Literature), Period, Docudrama/Historic
  • Accolades

    Accolades

    Not Applicable
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Pre-Teen (Age 11 - 13)
    • Teen (Age 14 - 18)

Additional Info

Drawing on material from Yaffa Eliach's book, Hasidic Tales of The Holocaust, the play uses some of these moving stories to relate the experiences of individuals, many of them young people, during the Shoah.  The play examines some of the mechanisms of the Final Solution and tell of the hatred and prejudice that fueled this unthinkable event.

Among the stories told in the play is that of a young woman, Anna, who was dying of typhus. After crawling to the top of a hill, her father comes to her and tells her to hold out for a couple more days for then the camp will be liberated.  Afer the camp's liberation, Anna discovers her father had been dead for several months, and that the hill she had climbed was a mass grave where he was buried.

There are also the stories of Moshe, a young boy, who saves himself from freezing to death by dancing like an Hasid during a roll call, and that of Margaret who experiences an act of unexpected and almost unbelievable kindness from a German soldier.


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Reviews

“Your play showed that human nature was not narrow-minded and through that whole experience the good of the human soul did triumph over evil.” – Jennifer L., student

"The Spirit of Life is a great portrayal of the Jewish experience.” – Melissa J., student

"I attended "The Spirit of Life" with 70 students...This field excusion is truly unparalleled." - Laura K., Teacher

Considerations

Performing Groups

  • High School/Secondary
  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre

Cautions

  • No Special Cautions

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $45 per performance

Production

Details

  • Time Period: 1940s / WWII
  • Duration: 40 minutes
  • Setting: The play tells many stories in different locales.  It calls only for a few props and costume pieces.  The actors all wear the basic costume of a concentration camp prisoner.
  • Additional Features: No intermission
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes

Music

  • Musical Style: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Vocal Demands: N/A (Not a musical)

Casting

3m, 6f
6 ATTESTORS - They serve as the narrators of the play and provide historical background information.
MAN ON TRANSPORT
WOMAN ON TRANSPORT
YOUNG GIRL
RABBI OF BLUZHOV
GESTAPO AGENT
ANNA
ANNA'S FATHER
3 PRISONERS IN AUSCHWITZ
COMMANDANT
YOUNG WOMAN 1 AND 2
SS OFFICER
MARGARET SCHWARTZ
MAN-IN-FUR COAT
SOLDIER
RABBI OF BOBOV
MOSHE
RABBI OF KLAUSENBERG
DANCERS 1, 2 AND 3
CAMP GUARD
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Cast Attributes

  • Ensemble cast
  • Reduced casting (Doubling Possible)
  • Flexible casting

Casting Notes

The original production used 3 men and 6 women.  The play can be done with a few as 6 actors and well over a dozen, which makes it ideal for high school drama clubs and for competitions. The play is an ensemble piece and utilizes the full cast to tell the stories that are brought to life in the play.

 

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Authors

David F. Eliet

David F. Eliet is a professional playwright, director, and theatre educator. He was the founding artistic director of The Perishable Theatre, director of the Cleveland Play House Lab Company and the Circle In The Square Suitcase Theatre and Acting Ensemble. He was the a co-founder of The Trinity Rep C ...

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Yaffa Eliach

Yaffa Eliach is a pioneering scholar in Holocaust studies. She is Professor Emerita from Brooklyn College and is currently teaching across the United States as a visiting Professor. She opened the first Center for Holocaust Studies Documentation & Research in the USA and introduced Holocaust Stud ...

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The Spirit of Life was originally produced by The Suitcase Theatre of Circle In The Square at the Kaufman Theatre on Theatre Row in New York City.  The show was directed by Victoria Pero.

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