The UNC Charlotte Theatre Department has completed its original production of Project|Hope. The play ran April 18 through 24, 2012 in the Robinson Hall Lab Theatre.

The production was part of the Violins of Hope exhibit that has been in Charlotte throughout the month of April. Project|Hope is the result of a year-long collaborative effort between a 2011 Special Topics class led by director Robin Witt, playwright Joe Salvatore and members of the UNCC Theatre Department.

They began by questioning how hope is seen in the 21st century. “The playwright really does believe that history can be examined through everyday stories,” said Witt.

The class interviewed over 30 people from all backgrounds to find out how their most prized possessions connected to their idea of hope.  Twelve of the narratives are included in the play.

In the play, set in a school library, a student is struggling to define hope for an assignment. Mysterious lights lead her to various areas of the library where she begins to discover the personal stories of struggles faced by figures ranging from Holocaust victims to 9/11 survivors to friends battling cancer.

The stories are told from a journalistic point of view with the actors playing interviewers presenting their perception of the people interviewed. They each give the girl an object associated with memories of hope. Collecting the objects and stories help the girl find the real meaning of hope.

One interview in Project|Hope describes a Jewish man who used his violin to smuggle explosives into a bar full of German soldiers. His rebellion sparked hope in many others fighting against the Nazis.

“The whole thing was very student-generated” said Witt. They were involved in every step including the interviews, play content, and costuming. Five of the original class members are actually in the play.

Project|Hope turned out to be a very popular production with audience members filling the 75-seat theatre almost every night. “It’s like you go on this journey with her as she discovers these peoples’ stories,” said Wes Hicks, a UNCC junior.

What stuck with me most after leaving the theatre was the range of emotions expressed by the characters telling their stories. There were battles, struggles and happy endings. The prized possessions carried just as much memory of hope as the people themselves.

According to Witt, “The memories connected to the objects are meant to ensure that our mistakes from the past are not relived and to remind us of where we have been and where we are going.”

Photo courtesy of UNC Charlotte.

Project|Hope was designed to go along with the Violins of Hope exhibit that has been on display in the UNC Charlotte Center City building.

The 18 violins were recovered from the Holocaust and restored by violinmaker Amnon Weinstein. Like the objects in the play, they carry memories of Jewish people creating hope with their music in the concentration camps.

In addition to the violins, there have been several other plays, exhibitions, films, lectures and concerts performed around Charlotte from April 9-24, 2012, all relating to the Holocaust and Jewish heritage. The project culminated in a performance by the Charlotte Symphony on April 21 at the Belk Theatre.