The drama recounts the story of Jewish artists who meet in Poland in 1946 and form a company to perform a mixture of classics from the Yiddish theater repertory and popular musical theater for survivors of the Holocaust, who were then living in camps and relocation centers. During the next three years, the company's performances rekindle its audience's spirits, while the company faces challenges to its work as the Iron Curtain begins to close around them.
Brody's play was inspired by the true story of the late Rita Karpinowicz, who was later known in the United States as Rita Karin. She and her husband emigrated to this country in 1948. Karin appeared in Broadway plays and in films such as "Sophie's Choice;" "Enemies", "A Love Story;" and "The Pickle." She also appeared on television, most recently on Tribeca, and continued her involvement with the Yiddish Center in Amherst, Mass., until her death in 1993. Today, her voice can be heard singing children's songs from the camps in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
The winner of numerous awards for playwriting, Brody has had productions mounted at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Missouri Repertory Theatre, the American Jewish Theatre and the Aspen Playwrights Conference. His play "Invention for Fathers and Sons" received the 1989 Lois and Richard Rosenthal Award and had its New York premiere in 1992. "The Company of Angels" was the recipient of the 1990 Eisner Award from the Streisand Center for Jewish Culture. Brody also is the author of two novels, Coming To and Hey Lenny, Hey Jack. He currently serves as chair of music and theater arts and professor of theater at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Atlantan Paul Goldberg will direct the play with musical direction by Kevin Little, choreography by Theresa DeBerry and lighting and sound by Judy Zanotti. Professional cast members include Vicki Ellis Gray ("Rochel"); Jonathan Davis ("Leib"); David Silverman ("Mordecai"); and Mary Lou Newcott ("Duna"), among others.
According to director Goldberg, he was immediately drawn into the play when reading it. "How do you explain the will to live, to create in the face of the atrocities of the Holocaust?" he asked. "If one gives up and gives in, the `devils' will win. But for Rita Karin and the others who took this journey with her, the choice was life. Their choice reaffirmed lives, celebrated life and truly put them in the company of angels."
Performances are as follows:
* 7:30 p.m., Feb. 10, opening night
* 8 p.m., Feb. 11, 15 (a Pay-what-you-can performance), 16, 17, 18, 22 (an understudy performance), 23, 24 and 25
* 3 p.m., Feb. 19
Tickets for "The Company of Angels" are on sale at the Emory Box Office. Ticket prices are $10.50 general admission; $8.50 Emory faculty/staff and senior citizens; and $4.50 Emory students. Call 727-6187 for information.
-- Joyce Bell