Play At Mount Zion Tells the Stories of Local Holocaust Survivors In Their Own Words

Joe and Erwin“We could talk. We could recall. We could tell stories,” Erwin Farkas said when asked if there were ways to keep his connection with Judaism alive while imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Mr. Farkas is one of eight local Holocaust survivors whose stories are told in We Could Recall/We Could Tell Stories, a play produced by Mount Zion Temple that opens tonight.
Playwright, and Mount Zion member, Sharon DeMark wrote this original work using oral histories collected by Mount Zion. The play weaves the stories of these eight individuals, using their own words, into a tapestry that tells a tale of suffering and renewal.
“Beginning about 10 years ago, led by Mary Ann Wark and Nancy Hauser, Mount Zion began collecting oral histories of our members; many of them elders of this community,” said Ms. DeMark. “There are over 130 of these documented lives. The play is based on the stories of eight of them. Seven of these people are still alive and living here in the Twin Cities, a walking history.”
The cast is a unique mix of professional and community performers ranging in age from 14 to 88. It includes Shirley Berdie, Scott Johansen, Hugh Kirsch, Arnie Krohn, Seth Levin, Sam Schauvaney, Jeremy Skoler and Joe Wiener. Klezmer violinist Judith Eisner adds a musical layer to the story.
Director Leah Cooper studied in 2010 with California’s Cornerstone Theater, nationally known for a time-tested process of cohesively combining stories from the community with the artistry of professional actors. Ms. Cooper’s recent Twin Cities productions include Or and August: Osage County at Park Square Theater and After Miss Julie at the Gremlin Theatre. She is also the founder of Footprints Collective, a group of veterans of current wars who tell their stories through theater.
Playwright Sharon DeMark’s play Knit One, Purl the Other was the tenth best-selling production at the 2011 Minnesota Fringe Festival and her play Meeting Grace won the 2012 New Doors One-Act Festival at the St. Croix Festival Theater in Wisconsin.  DeMark also wrote Stories from Mount Zion to celebrate the temple’s 150th anniversary in 2007.
Performances are at Mount Zion Temple, 1300 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 24; 7 p.m. Saturday, April 27; and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 28.
Tickets are free but as space is limited, reservations are required. For more information and to make reservations for the Mount Zion performances, visit or call 651-698-3881.
We Could Recall/We Could Tell Stories is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.  The production is also sponsored by Mount Zion Temple, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, and Sholom.
Julie Swiler lives in St. Paul and is a member of Mount Zion Temple.