Guide to the Records of Century Productions, undated, 1983-1987
 
*I-491

Processed by Marvin Rusinek

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161

Email: reference@ajhs.org

URL: http://www.ajhs.org

© 2014, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Marvin Rusinek as MS Word document, October 8, 2008. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on October 10, 2008. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Century Productions
Title: Century Productions, records
Dates:undated, 1983-1987
Abstract: Century Productions produced the one-woman show, "Hannah Senesh: Portrait of a Woman Warrior," written and directed by David Schechter and starring Lori Wilner as Senesh. The script was based on the diaries and poems of the WWII Hungarian-Jewish paratrooper Hannah Senesh, with songs and music composed and arranged by Steven Lutvak with additional music by Schecter and Elizabeth Swados. “Hannah Senesh” ran at the Cherry Hill Theater in New York City from 1984-1985 and traveled throughout the U.S. and Israel until 1987.
Languages: The collection is in English and Hungarian.
Quantity: 0.5 linear feet (1 manuscript box, 1 oversized folder, 1 MAP folder)
Identification: I-491
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Historical Note

Century Productions was the theatrical company which produced the play, "Hannah Senesh: Portrait of a Woman Warrior." The one-woman play, written and directed by David Schechter, starred Lori Wilner as the title character. The script, based on the diaries and poems of Hannah Senesh, included songs and music composed and arranged by Steven Lutvak with additional music by Schecter and Elizabeth Swados. The play ran at the Cherry Hill Theater in New York City from 1984-1985 and traveled throughout the U.S. and Israel for another two years.

The script was based on the true story of the extraordinary life of Hannah Senesh (1921-1944; also spelled as Hannah Szenes or Chana Senesh), a young, pretty, and carefree Hungarian-Jewish girl, before and during World War II. Senesh, who was frustrated by anti-Semitism in her native Budapest, was eventually executed as a partisan by a Nazi firing squad at the age of 23.

Senesh, fleeing an ever-repressive Europe, emigrated from Hungary to Palestine in 1939 where she joined others who shared her idealistic Zionism and lived on a kibbutz. When the war in Europe broke out, she volunteered to serve as a paratrooper to provide assistance to partisans in Yugoslavia for the British.

In 1944, Hungary was occupied by the Nazis. Senesh, along with two other paratroopers were assigned a mission to cross over the Yugoslavian border into Hungary. She and her companions learned on the ground that Hungary had been occupied by the Nazis and her companions abandoned the mission. However, Senesh went forward to the border where she was captured by the Nazis. She endured unbelievable torture, but in spite of her beatings, she would not betray her comrades, the secrets of her mission, or the radio code connected to the transmitter that had been found on her as she attempted to cross into Hungarian. At the end of the play, the Nazis barbarously execute her. Her death and her life have served as an inspiration for later generations, effectively making her a wartime heroine and martyr, and she is hailed as the "Jewish Joan of Arc."

Lori Wilner's portrayal of "Hannah Senesh" was described in numerous newspaper articles as "brilliant," "riveting," "stirring," "compelling," "powerful," and "moving." Richard Shepard of The New York Times said of the play that, "Hannah Senesh is a memorial worthy of its subject; powerful without being superhuman, tracing how a warm person develops into a hero symbol. We propose a film worthy of its subject: a truly great and compelling film of this young Jewish heroine, this poet/warrior." Wilner was nominated for a Drama Desk Award in 1985 during the show's off-Broadway run.

Hannah Senesh stays forever in the hearts of Jews as the epitome of a strong spirit who suffered martyrdom to save her people - people who would have been otherwise tortured during the Holocaust. "Hannah Senesh" has been compared to the Diary of Anne Frank in that Hannah depicts a Jewish heroine who kept a diary during the Holocaust and wrote poetry, leaving her own record of her life.

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Scope and Content Note

The collection contains items related to the production of "Hannah Senesh: Portrait of a Woman Warrior." These include the script, photographs (both of Senesh and the stage production), props, stage and lighting plots, costumes, and promotional material. Types of material include blueprints, clippings, correspondence, newspaper articles, notes, photographs, playbills, posters, press reviews, programs, and scripts. A treatment for a film production of the play is also located in the records.

The correspondence consists of a letter from Catherine Szenes to Lori Wilner and a letter from two classmates, Olga Patcai and Magda Somjen, to Lori Wilner.

The records are valuable to researchers studying Jewish theater, idealism, theater arts, and Zionism.

The documents are predominantly in English, with some Hungarian.

The records are organized into a single series.

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Arrangement

The collection consists of a single series arranged by topic.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011
email: reference@ajhs.org

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Century Productions, records; I-491; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Acquisition Information

Donated By Perry Bruskin of Century Productions in 1995.

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

 

Records of Century Productions, undated, 1983-1987

English and Hungarian.
0.5 linear feet (1 manuscript box, 1 oversized folder, 1 MAP folder)
Arrangement:

The folders are arranged by topic.

Scope and Content:

See the collection Scope and Content Note.

BoxFolderTitleDate
1 1 Correspondence undated, 1985-1987
  (contains Hungarian)   
1 2 Letters of Comment undated, 1985
1 3 Newspaper Reviews undated, 1984-1987
1 4 Photographs
1 5 Playbills and Postcards undated, 1984-1985
1 6 “Profile of a hero of her time” Treatment 1986-1987
1 7 Publicity Notes undated, 1985, 1987
1 8 Script 1983
1 9 Travel and Lighting Notes 1986
BoxFolderTitleDate
OS2F 1 “Hannah Senesh” Blueprints 1985
BoxFolderTitleDate
MAP1 1 Light Plots 1986
MAP1 1 Poster 1987
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