Darrin Mosley as graduate student James Stevens exchanges heated remarks with Andy Pivarnik as Holocaust denier William Whitehead during a rehearsal of "The Survivor," McKeesport Little Theater's entry in Pittsburgh New Works Festival. (David Adams photo special to Tube City Almanac)
If you go
What: “The Survivor,” produced by McKeesport Little Theater for Pittsburgh New Works Festival
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 30, 4 p.m. Sept. 1, 2 p.m. Sept. 2, 8 p.m. Sept. 7, 8 p.m. Sept. 8
Where: Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie
Tickets: Single tickets available for $17 online or $20 at the door; $15 for students with valid ID. Festival passes and other ticket options available online.
At the helm as director of “The Survivor,” McKeesport Little Theater’s production for Pittsburgh New Works Festival, Ed Bostedo is pleased with how his luck of the draw turned out.
The festival, in its 28th year, is an opportunity for regional theater companies to introduce a series of new, one-act plays. The catch? After directors review available scripts and get a chance to see actors complete generic auditions, is they have to bid on the play, then the cast, of their choice.
“I was second to last to bid (on the play) and got the show, then was second for the cast and got my first choice both times,” Bostedo said.
“The Survivor” is written by Gordon Bennett of Coatesville, Chester County, but playwrights from all over can submit their work for consideration. A panel narrows the selections, then auditions are set. With no idea about the subject matter of the play, actors have two minutes to convince directors to cast them.
This year, approximately 50 people turned out to audition.
From left, Kathleen Regan as Mary Stevens, Sarah Street as Vivian Danielle, Louise Fox as Sarah Lowen and Darrin Mosley as James Stevens prepare for opening night of "The Survivor." (David Adams photo, special to Tube City Almanac)
“The Survivor” is set in a college town, where the school’s newspaper editor (Sarah Street as Vivian Danielle) has organized a forum featuring a professional Holocaust denier (Andy Pivarnik as William Whitehead).
Her boyfriend (Darrin Mosley as James Stevens) is a grad student whose specialty is the Holocaust and the Denier’s Movement. Without his knowledge, Vivian volunteers James to participate in the forum to face off against the denier.
Proud mother Mary Stevens (Kathleen Regan) is appalled when she hears about the forum, and meets Whitehead when he pays an unexpected visit to her home to discuss issues with James.
Rounding out the cast is Louise Fox as Sarah Lowen, who is new to the neighborhood and shares her story with James and the ladies about surviving the Holocaust.
When she announces she plans to confront the denier at the forum, James and Vivian have some decisions to make.
Mosley moved to Pittsburgh about a year ago after graduating from Slippery Rock University. As James, he is incredulous that someone could deny the Holocaust happened.
“We know there was a Holocaust,” Mosley said. “We want to refute people who deny it. I think that’s what James learned at the end from Mrs. Lowen, the beautiful part of the play.”
Street said her character Vivian initially is just wrapped up in the drama of bringing a Holocaust denier to campus and has not thought everything through. When she hears Lowen tell her story, Vivian looks at things from a different perspective.
Also a recent arrival to the Pittsburgh area, it was Street’s first time auditioning for New Works. “I had no idea what to expect,” she said. “It was good to meet so many others involved in theater.”
Fox is a veteran of New Works and the Holocaust subject matter. She said she once played the mother of Anne Frank, and that stayed with her, portraying a real person.
“My character considers herself to be a survivor, not a victim,” Fox said.
Kathleen Regan as Mary Stevens (left) and Sarah Street as Vivian Danielle (right) comfort Louise Fox as Holocaust survivor Sarah Lowen. (David Adams photo special to Tube City Almanac)
In "The Survivor," Lowen, who's new to the neighborhood, asks James if he still is going to the forum to present his research and views. When he says he’s considering staying at home, she relates her story of surviving Auschwitz, where her mother and two sisters were killed.
Pivarnik said once he read the script, he considered playing Whitehead to be a huge challenge.
At one point his character refers to “the myth of Jewish genocide” and tells James, “Well, we both can’t be right, can we?” as the grad student presents fact after fact defending his research about the atrocity.
“This guy really believes everything he says” in denying the Holocaust, Pivarnik explained. “Is there a guilt factor? Does he consider himself wronged by a Jewish person in the past? My dad is from Czechoslovakia and my mom’s family is Italian. We respected all the nationalities.”
Regan said two years ago she appeared in LabWorks, another New Works endeavor.
“It was great to be cast with Darrin,” she said of portraying the proud mom set to defend her son and his Holocaust specialty against Whitehead.
McKeesport Little Theater veterans Linda Baker and Rose-Lorene Miller join Bostedo as “The Survivor” producer and stage manager, respectively.
“The Survivor,” by Gordon Bennett, opens Aug. 30 at 8 p.m., with additional shows running through Sept. 8 at various times at Carnegie Stage in Carnegie:
Linda Baker, producer
Ed Bostedo, director
Rose-Lorene Miller, stage manager
Darrin Mosley as James Stevens (grad student)
Sarah Street as Vivian Danielle (girlfriend of James and on the college newspaper staff)
Kathleen Regan as Mary Stevens, James' mother
Andy Pivarnik as William Whitehead, a Holocaust denier
Louise Fox as Sarah Lowen, a Holocaust survivor
Presented at the same venue and time are “AleynaAnna” by Allston James, produced by Cup-A-Jo Productions, and “Survivor’s Guilt, or The Jumping Off Point,” written by Alex Flanigan and produced by the Duquesne University Red Masquers.
Additional information about the complete New Works offerings is available at https://pittsburghnewworks.org.
Bonnijean Cooney Adams is a freelance writer. A former editor of The Daily News, she worked as a journalist in McKeesport for more than 20 years. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published August 29, 2018.