The Estancia High School play, “Letters to Sala”, received first place honors in the California Educational Theatre Association’s (CETA) Orange County awards program.
The play, adapted from the book “Sala’s Gift” by Ann Kirschner, is based on the remarkable true story of Sala Garncarz’s survival during wartime Germany. During the Nazi invasion of Poland, Sala, a Jewish girl at just sixteen years old, was sent from her home to the first of seven Nazi labor camps she worked at during the course of the war. Over a five-year period, she chronicled her experience by writing and receiving letters to and from friends and family. She was able to conceal 350 letters during a time when prisoners were not permitted to save or keep any personal possessions. Fifty years later, and days before undergoing an intensive surgery, Sala confides in her daughter, Ann Kirschner, and resurfaces the letters. Three generations of Kirschner women must work together to sift through the past and come to terms with the true significance of Sala’s letters.
Estancia High School Theatre students felt strongly about the theme of the play and went out of their way to conduct research about the Holocaust, read books, seek history lessons, visit museums and do all that they could to truly connect with the story.
Estancia’s performances of “Letters to Sala” took place in early December and they will now take the show on the road, performing at the CETA Southern High School Theatre Festival in January. The festival offers a variety of opportunities including workshops led by professionals in the industry encouraging artistic growth for high school students and their teachers. The three-day Festival showcases four MainStage plays selected from four regions of Southern California: Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire, and San Diego County.
“We are extremely honored to be recognized by such a prestigious organization,” said Estancia High School Theatre Director Ms. Pauline Maranian. “This was a touching experience for all of us and we are excited for our main stage performance at the festival,” she said.
Estancia also received the first place award from CETA a few years ago for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” performance.
CETA mission is to achieve sequential, standards-based, comprehensive theatre education, promote equity and access to theatre arts education, recognize theatre excellence through awards and scholarships, and provide valued opportunities for theatre educators and students throughout California.