Power of Theater (02:01)
During World War II, the Dominican Republic accepted a mass Jewish immigration— most settled in Sosúa. In Washington Heights, students rehearse a musical about the events. (Credits)
Eight Months Earlier... (02:12)
Victoria Neznansky begins the audition process. Liz Swados is a renowned director who created the Broadway hit, "Runaways." Students explain why they want to participate in the performance.
Casting Deliberations (02:32)
John was raised in Washington Heights, but now attends an affluent boarding school in Princeton, NJ— he used to feel like he did not belong anywhere, but theater helped him realize that the two locations are two different sides of his personality. The cast assembles for the first time.
First Rehearsal (02:36)
Nezansky tells the cast the story of the immigration to Sosúa. Trujillo accepted the Jews because they were white, not for humanitarian reasons. The play will be a celebration of two communities working together to survive.
Creating the Script (02:40)
Swados asks the cast to perform some exercises to help them get into character. Students recall how they felt when someone was judging them. Homework is given to write and memorize a monologue from the point of view of a Nazi or a Dominican fascist.
Changes in Washington Heights (02:34)
Washington Heights contains the largest population of Dominicans in the United States and is one of the oldest Jewish Communities. Swados leads the cast through music rehearsal. Naomi describes her feelings when she sings, "Hitler is Going to Save You."
Naomi travels by subway to an elite private school in Manhattan. In Washington Heights, the Dominican and Jewish populations rarely co-mingle. Swados feels the cast is two months ahead of where she planned.
Cast Bonding (02:49)
Matt Gehring the assistant director leads the cast through some singing improvisation. Nezansky introduces Danny Herzberg, a Sosúa refugee, whose parents hid him in a suitcase to travel to the Dominican Republic because he did not have a visa.
Cast Improvises Herzberg's Story (03:37)
Students ask questions about Herzberg's life in Sosúa. Swados explains the cast has taken ownership of the musical. Kaitlin's family is the only Dominican in her neighborhood— the Jewish community asks her to turn off their lights on the Sabbath.
Swados starts to choreograph the show. The cast celebrates Chanukah together. Jordan feels like the rehearsals are the best part of the week and has come out of his shell.
Watch newsreel footage of Sosúa. The cast is separated into pairs (one Jew and one Dominican) and told to create a scene. Swados explains that she looks for little changes on how cast members relate— big changes are not authentic.
A Dominican gang attacked one of the Jewish cast members. Swados rehearses a scene where ice cream is a metaphor for racial diversity.
One Week Later (02:22)
Gehring takes over rehearsals because Swados is called to Abu Dhabi. Nezansky explains that only a few cast members attended rehearsals today. Naomi worries about the worst case scenario.
Bad News (02:43)
Nezansky explains that some of the children are going through difficult situations. Swados asks if they can move the performance dates to a month later— Englisher asks to watch a dress rehearsal. Actors rehearse solos.
Naomi feels that history repeated itself when the Jews traveled to the Dominican Republic to escape Nazi oppression. Nezansky prepares Passover incorporating both Dominican and Jewish food. The cast celebrates together.
Swados Returns (02:40)
Cast members rehearse the production. Eli Wildmann explains how he opted for fluidness instead of historical accuracy in the sets and costumes. John describes how much he admires Gehring, Swados, and Taub.
One Week Before Performance (01:59)
Swados decides that John should deliver a speech instead of singing a solo. Taub is unsure how to fix a pitch problem affecting the cast. The directors decide being loud is better than being in tune.
Opening Day (02:40)
Swados describes the "difficult and joyous journey" of creating the musical. The cast warms up on the stage and works out some last minute blocking. Swados gives a pep talk.
Audience Arrives (03:10)
Nezansky gives a speech welcoming the audience. Watch excerpts of opening night. Naomi describes how much she has appreciated the experience.
Opening Night (02:30)
Watch excerpts of the performance. Naomi explains how the song "Stay There" makes her cry every time she sings it. Swados discusses how children will make the world a better place.
The Show is Over (02:13)
The cast takes their curtain call and meets other refugees who share their stories. Less than 800 Jews were able to obtain visas to settle in Sosúa. The musical is an ongoing production.
Credits: Sosúa: Make a Better World (01:06)
Credits: Sosúa: Make a Better World
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