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Interview with the creative team of WITNESSES

CCAE Theatricals brings the world premiere of their first original musical with WITNESSES to the California Center for the Arts, Escondido from July 15 – July 30th. The musical brings the voices of five Jewish teen diarists during the Holocaust to the stage to allow their stories to be told. Conceived by Jordan Beck, the Managing Producer of Theatrical Productions for CCAE, along with the show Director and CCAE’s Artistic Director J. Scott Lapp talk about the process of bringing this piece to the stage, and what they hope audiences take away from WITNESSES.

Photo Credit: The cast of WITNESSES from CCAE Theatricals.
Photo Credit: The cast of WITNESSES from CCAE Theatricals.

After first connecting with the diaries over 10 years ago, Jordan Beck knew that he wanted to find a way to allow these teenagers’ lives their moment in the spotlight to tell their story. Beck then handpicked composers and lyricists, to give each teen their own individual distinctive voice on stage.

“I wanted each teenager to get their due and not have one overshadow the others, which is how the idea to give each diary to a different writer/writing team came to me.”, Beck says. “I knew if they were only focusing on one, then each diary would get equal attention and three solid songs, which is why I’m especially thrilled for audiences to finally hear this incredible score.”

Beck had experience as a songwriter, and along with his history as a theatre producer, writer, and director, knew he had the contacts to help make this show a reality.

“Over the years, I had become friends with many other musical theatre songwriters through different ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) events and such. We were fortunate that many of the writers I initially thought of when reading the diaries said yes when I approached them about working on the show. If I didn’t know them personally, I certainly knew their work. They were given complete freedom to choose the moments that resonated with them and the book was written around the songs.”

It is the fact that these diaries show not just what is happening politically, but also the very relatable issues that still impact teens today; from having a crush on someone, trying to do well in school, or arguing with family, these teens were dealing with ordinary everyday issues during extraordinary times.

The story of 12-year-old David Rabinowicz, has lyrics by Beck, with music by Gerald Sternbach. Matt Gould wrote the music and lyrics for 15-year-old Yitskhok Rudashevski. Adam Gwon wrote the music and lyrics for 18-year-old Moshe Flinker. Anna K. Jacobs wrote the songs for 18-year-old Renia Spiegel, while Composer Carmel Dean and Lyricist Mindi Dickstein wrote for 13-year-old Éva Heyman.

J. Scott Lapp says that the show’s purposeful choice to give a unique sound to each teenager through the use of music to tell their story makes this show more of a theatrical event of incredible storytelling.

“Its carefully interwoven excerpts are directly from these five teenagers’ diaries, combined with the brilliant writing of music & lyrics by some of the top working professionals in the field right now. The piece as a whole feels so cohesive and expertly put together. Robert L. Freedman has done a masterful job at weaving journal entries of the five diarists directly into the piece which skillfully tells the narrative of one of the most compelling times in History. Lessons that must not be forgotten and voices we must never forget.”

WITNESSES has been a work in progress over the last few years as all of the pieces came together to create this production. Lapp says that adding in the performers over the last few weeks has been that additional puzzle piece that has helped bring the full vision together.

“Over the past 3 weeks as we have started staging the piece for the first time, so many new moments and opportunities have revealed themselves during the course of finding the visual vocabulary for WITNESSES. Having the opportunity to add brilliant collaborators to the mix has stirred new conversations, opened new possibilities and new ideas begin to take shape.”

Besides appreciating the work of the many talented people involved in this production Lapp also hopes the audiences also walk away with a sense of self-reflection on what lessons and actions they take in their own lives.

‘Throughout the course of the show, the audience is posed with a question: “What will YOU do? What will YOU do when injustices happen before you?” It is from the lessons to be learned through the Holocaust that we can all see first-hand what hatred, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, and intolerance can lead to. It is from these same lessons that we must learn how critical it is to stand up against ALL forms of hate and prejudice. We are ALL Witnesses.’

WITNESSES makes its world premiere on July 15th, but Lapp says this is just the beginning for the show to bring these stories to theatre audiences.

“I am honored to have the show start at our home theatre here in Escondido, I know there is a bright future for this show going forward.”

How To Get Tickets

You can see WITNESSES from July 15- 30th at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. For ticket and show time information you can call (800) 988-4253 or go to artcenter.org

You can also follow the musical WITNESSES, CCAE Theatricals, and the California Center for the Arts, Escondido on their social media at the following :

Instagram: @witnessesmusical

Instagram: @ccaetheatricals

Instagram @theccae

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