Number the Stars

based on the book by Louis Lowry, adapted by Dr. Douglas W. Larche

The events of this play take place in Denmark during World War II, and is about the lengths people take to protect their Jewish friends during the Nazi occupation. Annmarie and Ellen are best friends and when the time comes, Annmarie is the one who is startling brave and makes it possible for Ellen and other Jewish people to escape safely to Sweden. The play follows the relationship of these girls closely as they together come face to face with various Nazi soldiers, deal with boy troubles, and slowly realize the terrors that come with the German occupation.

I played Ellen Rosen, a young Jewish girl living in Denmark during the German occupation. Playing this role felt especially honorable to be due to my own family history. Both of my Father’s parents were Holocaust survivors from Poland. I have heard countless stories of their incredible bravery and the horrors that they both faced. They lost most of their family in the Holocaust and because of that my family is quite small. Both of my grandparents have passed but they live on through their children and the stories of their incredible lives that will be passed on generation to generation.

I felt it was incredibly important for me to play this role and in a way, help my grandparent’s stories live on through the telling of another story about the Holocaust and the bravery of so many people during that time. I honestly felt honored to play the Jewish girl in this production and I know I made my family proud.

This was one of the first shows I was in that I did extensive research for. I talked a lot with my father about our personal family history because I wanted to bring real truth into the performance. I talked a lot with my father about our personal family history because I wanted to bring real truth into the performance.  also researched what the day-to-day lives of people living in occupied Denmark were like; how their food and electricity were rationed, their curfews, and just generally how their lives were changing. Finally, I read the book that the play was based off. The book gave me a lot of little details and insights that were not included in the script and added a certain dimension to my character and the show itself.

Though I do generally look pretty young, it is always an added challenge to play such a young character (14-year-old girl) when you are in fact a teenager or young adult. I made very conscious and specific choices when it came to the way I talked, my facial expressions, and the way I held my body in order to convey the idea that I was much younger than I actually was. 

I really wanted to give the most truthful and honorable performance that I could. This is a goal I strive for in any production I am a part of but for this show in particular I was really aware of how important the messages were and I knew I had to strive really hard to give a performance that was realistic and respectful to this important story. One of the ways I worked on achieving those goals in my performance was with an effort to be as present as possible on stage in each scene. I also thought a lot about how much a girl Ellen’s age in Denmark would have actually known about what was going on - which was probably not a great deal. This was hard because I had done so much research about the history of the show and of course I know about the Holocaust and all its horrors. So it was very challenging to act as if I didn’t know what was about to happen or know anything about the horrors to come for the Jewish people. I believe I was successful in portraying the innocence and confusion along with a deep, inner understanding that something was not right that would be true of a young Jewish girl during this time. 

This show is about being brave and what it means to be brave and it’s also about standing up for what and who we believe in. This was a really important thing during the Holocaust. Without people like Annmarie and Mrs. Johansen, many more Jewish people would not have survived the Holocaust. And this idea is still an important thing today. With all the political and social issues going on around the world and particularly in the United States under our current presidential administration, it is important to remind our audience that we must be brave and prepare to stand up for what and whom we believe in.

There is a certain sort of vulnerability that acting involves. Actors are able to be incredibly open and honest with the security of hiding behind a mask, of being someone other than themselves. I was able to put on the mask of Ellen and truly become her character. Usually when I act, I don’t know who “Shoshi” is anymore; I am just my character. This time, it was slightly different. I think I was more vulnerable in this show than in many of the other shows I have been in because due to my personal and deep connection with the content, I felt it was important for me to bring a good deal of who I am into the performance. I wanted to honor Ellen’s story and thousands of others who have stories just like her while at the same time honoring my own story. 

Pictured below: Set for Number the Stars - two triangle platforms on wheels that were moved throughout the show to change the setting, audience on three sides 


© 2020 by Shoshi Greenberg