In Fall 2009, Dr. Rose Gatens, Director for the Center of Holocaust Studies and Human Rights Education at Florida Atlantic University contact ed Julia Perlowski, Director of Drama Programs at Pompano Beach High School to ask if she would like to be the project director of a Witness Theatre program.

Witness Theater was developed by ESHEL, an Israeli elder-services agency under the auspices of the American-based Joint Distribution Committee. The program matches high school students with Holocaust survivors to share the life stories that form the foundation of an extraordinary theatre piece. It has been implemented more than 20 times in Israel.

Assembled at their first meeting were Rose Gatens, Julia Perlowski, Antia Hoffer, President of the South Florida Kinder Association and Dr. Caren Neile, member of FAU’s US premier Witness theatre team in 2010 and founding Director of the South Florida Storytelling Project.

The idea for the 2010 project was to get a number of surviving members of the kindertransport (those children shipped out of Europe to England in 1939 to escape the horrors of WWII) together with 30 striving teens at Pompano Beach High School.


The two generations met for a total of 11 two-hour session during which the teens and older adults came together to explore the history of the kindertransport through theatre activity, interviews, digital documentation and performance.

The day was structured so that teens and kinder could warm-up together in simple play in order to get to know each other and practice skills that they would later use to build their performance.

In the following exercises…all participants were put into heterogeneous teams and asked to “Line up in order of age, alphabetically according to the first letter of their last name and how smart they were.” The purpose of the game is to get people to talk to each other, discover similarities and differences and to learn how to pull work together collaboratively. Take a look:


In the following exercise…”Out talk your partner…” participants were asked to get in pairs…and at the same time…tell their partner a story. The game fosters, projection skills, focus, concentration and animation. This exercise prepared them for interviews that would be conducted later in the day. Take a look:

For the telling process, John Rosen helped to break the storytelling process down into thematic increments such as, Life in Europe before the transport, the journey to England, Life in England, the end of the War, Life Beyond the war, the real Heroes…our Parents, etc.

Students created questions and broke out in groups with each Kind to interview them about the various segments of their lives. We used garage band and flip cameras to capture our activity.

Putting the drama together…