Yom HaShoah Memorial Service & Performance of Irena Gut by Janet Rogers

Monday, April 20 / Service at 7:00 P.M. in Goode Chapel / Performance at 7:30 P.M. in Speen Hall Day

Free and open to the public. You are welcome to attend both the service and performance or just the performance.

(The public is also invited to a book discussion of Irene Gut Opdyke’s memoir on Thursday, April 16 at 2pm. See information in a separate listing and at FJC’s calendar.)

This performance of poetry and prose, created by Janet Rodgers, is based on the autobiography of Irena Gut Opdyke entitled In My Hands. Irena Gut tells the true story of Irena Gut, a young Catholic Polish girl who saved the lives of twelve young Jewish professionals from extermination by the Nazis during WWII. When Poland was taken over by the Soviets, these 12 Jewish men and women then saved her. It is a story of love, compassion, courage and human respect.

Born in Poland to Catholic parents, Irena Gut joined the underground shortly after WWII began. Captured by the Russians who beat and raped her, she eventually was sent to work at a hospital for wounded Russian soldiers. At the first opportunity she sled the hospital only to be captured
by the Germans who sent her to work in a munitions plant. While working for the Germans she caught the eye of an elderly SS officer (Rugemer) who
found her easier work in the army mess hall. The mess hall was in close proximity to a Jewish ghetto and Irena soon became familiar with the plight of its inhabitants.

When Rugemer was transferred to the Ukraine he took Irena as his housekeeper. While there, she hid 12 Jews in Rugemer’s villa. She fed and clothed them until he accidently found them one day. Terrified for all their lives, Irena begged the officer to allow her friends to escape, saying she would take the punishment of death for them all if necessary. After debating his answer, Rugemer told Irena that he would keep her secret, but for a price – she would have to
become his mistress. This she agreed to. As German forces retreated in the face of the Soviet offensive, Irena and the Jews she had
protected, fled to the relative safety of the forests where they survived. In 1949, Irena immigrated to the United States eventually marrying and establishing a home in Southern California. In 1982, Irena Gut Opdyke was recognized by Yad Vashem, the Israeli national Holocaust
memorial, as Righteous Among the Nations.

Janet Rodgers is Professor Emerita of Theatre, Virginia Commonwealth University where she taught for 25 years, was Head of Performance for seven years and created the first MFA with emphasis in Voice and Speech Pedagogy in the USA. Prior to coming to VCU, she taught at the Boston Conservatory of Music and was principal actress with The Boston Shakespeare Company and Boston’s Lyric Stage as well as performing Off Broadway at La Mama Theatre.

In 2004, she was a Fulbright Scholar to Romania where she taught at two universities while coaching actors at the Radu Stanca National Theatre in Sibiu. In Serbia she has worked extensively with the DAH Theatre of Belgrade. Ms. Rodgers’ writings include The Complete Voice and Speech Workout (Applause Books, NYC: 2002, Acting and Singing with Archetypes (co-author Frankie Armstrong) (Limelight Editions, NYC: 2009) and, most recently, Irena Gut: Only a Girl (available for performances only).

Ms. Rodgers holds a BA in Theatre Arts and Speech from Mount Holyoke College and an MFA in Theatre Arts from Brandeis University. She has done further study at The American Center for the Performing Arts, London’s National Theatre and Harvard University’s American Repertory Theatre.

Learn more at janetrogers.com.