MAILED: July 1, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE -- Interest is what motivated Terry Allen to teach "Theatre of the Holocaust" this summer for the third time at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
It's not only his interest in this period of history but also the interest of students that prompted him to offer it again, said Allen, professor of theatre arts.
This summer about 20 graduate and upper level undergraduate students, as well as some Eau Claire community members, will take his three-week UW-Extension course.
There have been numerous films and scripts written in recent years which depict interest in the Holocaust, said Allen, noting that "Schindler's List" was among the most popular. Many of the best playwrights of the 20th century have addressed this topic several times in their scripts, including Bertolt Brecht, Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett and Arthur Miller, he said.
"For me, it is clearly an important issue for a lot of artists and writers of the theater," Allen said.
Allen said many colleges and universities offer type of course but UW-Eau Claire offers more than most schools.
Allen first taught "Theatre of the Holocaust" when he directed the play "Ghetto" two years ago. The play was set in a Lithuanian ghetto, and many of its characters were based on real people, he said.
After doing his research, Allen found that there was a substantial student response to the course.
There are many films to watch and scripts to read, Allen said, noting that students often extend these beyond the classroom. As part of the class, students do a creative project about the Holocaust. The project can include directing, acting or playwriting.
"There seems to be a grand need to express it (the Holocaust) in some way - whether through art, dance or theater," Allen said.
Many of the people who take the course might not have a theater background, he said. But it's an appealing area of study so they enroll, he said.
Allen will take a sabbatical leave in the spring of 1998 to further his research of the Holocaust. He received a $2,300 grant to help fund trips to the Holocaust Research Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Facing History and Ourselves Foundation in Chicago.
A mistake some people make is thinking the Holocaust only deals with the period of 1933 to 1945, Allen said. It's really a study of the 20th century, he said.
"Minimally, we have to deal with 1910 through today and beyond," Allen said.
He will continue to teach the course when he returns in the fall of 1998. Allen will direct another Holocaust play, Harold Pinter's "The Hothouse," in the spring of 1999.
The Holocaust class is a good course to take for the branch of theater arts that deals with literature, history and criticism, he said. It complements courses in other disciplines at the university such as "Nazis and Germany," he said.
"It's a good history overview to see how it is expressed from many men and women in all parts of the world," Allen said. "There is a lot of opportunity to read scripts or see films beyond a small core."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: July 7, 1997