'Stitch in Time' Debuts at FIU

MIAMI, FLA.- The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU has commissioned a new dramatic work based on the museum’s current exhibition, Stitching History from the Holocaust. The new one act play is called A Stitch in Time, and is about the true story of Paul and Hedwig “Hedy” Strnad who tragically perished in the Holocaust after failed attempts in 1939 to secure a visa to flee to the U.S. from Prague.

The young couple tried to escape the onslaught of the Nazis by sending sketches of Hedy’s clothing designs to prove she could earn a living in America with her talents, which was required at the time for immigration to the United States. Their attempts failed and they were denied a Visa, and they tragically perished in the Holocaust.

This new commissioned work was written by Miami playwright Susan Westfall and will be directed by Michael Yawney, associate professor of theater at Florida International University.

The accompanying exhibition, Stitching History from the Holocaust, originated at Jewish Museum Milwaukee and is on view at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU until March 19, located in the heart of South Beach’s Art Deco District, located at 301 Washington Avenue.

“The universal themes in this exhibition still resonate in today’s modern world, and inspired us to commission this original play,” said Jo Ann Arnowitz, the Museum’s Executive Director & Chief Curator. “The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is proud to bring this story to life for audiences in South Florida and the many tourists from around the world visiting Miami Beach this season. The messages of hope and perseverance in this story are just as striking now as they were almost eighty years ago.” The museum is presenting two more live performances of the new one-act play it has commissioned, on February 1 and February 5.

The dresses in the exhibition are based on the original fashion design sketches by Hedy Strnad that accompanied the couples’ letters requesting a U.S. visa. Decades later, the sketches were discovered by descendants of the original family that tried to help Paul and Hedy immigrate to America.

These designs were painstakingly brought to life by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater for the accompanying exhibition, using fabrics, colors and sewing techniques that are authentic to the late 1930s. Hedy’s drawings represented the height of fashion in 1939, providing a small window into the lives of Jews in Prague on the eve of World War II.

Although society was crumbling all around her at the time, when viewing these beautiful dresses it is inspiring to note that Hedy still managed to create designs that were glamorous, colorful and joyful.

Hedy’s designs also reveal another significant story: along with the loss of six million Jewish lives, the Holocaust also extinguished an incalculable amount of talent and creativity. As the New York Times review of this award-winning exhibition states, “The fashions are both text and textile, a story of life and death told in fabric … a recollection of mortality and persecution.” The timing of this production is meant to coincide with Holocaust Education Week. The exhibition is on view at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU until March 19.

The new one-act play, created in Miami to accompany this exhibition, is called A Stitch in Time and premiered this weekend to sold-out audiences at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. This cultural institution is affiliated with Florida International University. This world premiere production features the actors Irene Adjan and Ricky J. Martinez, who portray Hedy and Paul Strnad.