"The Fireflies: A Children’s Play with Music Produced in Terezín."
Dr. Lauren McConnell is Assistant Professor in Communication and Dramatic Arts at Central Michigan University. Previously she taught at the University of Pittsburgh and Łódź University (Poland) as a visiting professor and was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Constantine the Philosopher (Slovak Republic) and Plovdiv University (Bulgaria). She received a PhD in theater and drama from Northwestern University, where her dissertation, which was supported by a Boren Graduate International Fellowship, explored censorship and its effect on Czech playwriting under communism. For her Charles H. Revson Foundation Fellowship, she conducted research for her project “The Fireflies: A Children’s Play with Music Produced in Terezín.”
Dr. McConnell is both a scholar and a playwright. Her recent academic publications include “Understanding Paul Robeson’s Soviet Experience” (2010) in Theatre History Studies; “The Dramatic Choice of Cooperation and Non-Violence: Vaclav Havel’s Tomorrow We Will Start Up!” (2008) in Discourses and Spaces of (In)tolerance; and “Daniela Fischerová’s The Massage Table: Politics and Guilt in Post-Communist Czechoslovakia” (2000) in Modern Czech Studies.
Among her recent conference presentations are “Learning from The Fireflies,” Association for Jewish Theatre, Los Angeles (2012); “Entropa R Us,” Comparisons, Interactions, and Contestations within/across Borders, Bucharest University (Romania, 2010); “The Success of Censorship: Czechoslovak Playwriting during the Normalization,” International Federation for Theatre Research, Lisbon (Portugal, 2009); and “Chicago-Czech Diasporic Theatre and Finian’s Rainbow: It’s About Us,” American Society for Theatre Research, Boston (2008).
Productions of Dr. McConnell’s plays include Socrates Was Ugly, Prague Fringe Theatre Festival (2011); My Ántonia, adapted from Willa Cather’s novel, Central Michigan University’s Riecker Literary Series (2010); What I Did For Love, Broadway Theatre, Mount Pleasant, Michigan (2009); Words Are Something Else, Jewish Theatre Ensemble at Northwestern University (2000); The Northern Lights, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville (1998); and Maytags, Harold Clurman Theatre, New York City (1996).
During her tenure at the Center, Dr. McConnell researched The Fireflies, a play with music produced in the Terezín camp-ghetto during World War II. Using witness testimony and archival evidence, she wrote a new version of The Fireflies that incorporates the history of the Terezín production and honors those involved in it. Her goal was to create a play to be performed by today’s children, who will learn about the Holocaust in the process of rehearsing and performing it. She also is writing a book that focuses on the lives of the three women who collaborated on The Fireflies in Terezín: actress/director Vlasta Schönová (later Nava Shean), dancer/choreographer Kamila Rosenbaumová, and artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who coordinated the costumes and set.
Dr. McConnell was in residence at the Mandel Center from May 1 to July 30, 2012.