I served as mentor to Travis Martinez '21 for his scenic design, Leah Canel '21 and Daniel Brody '22 for the production process and direction of this original play. Travis won First Place in the Southeastern Theatre Conference Undergraduate Scenic Design Competition (p.12. Working title was Life? Or Theatre?) for his scenic design. Through the Window was theatre major and Eckardt Scholar Leah Canel's '21 thesis project. It is an exploration of how Holocaust victim Charlotte Salomon overcame her everyday and found herself as an artist. Leah conducted extensive research, wrote and performed in her original play, Through the Window, and created a companion written account of the research with a full bibliography. The fully edited and produced film is on the Department of Theatre's Youtube Channel. When Leah selected this project, it was slated to be a mainstage Lehigh theatre production in the Spring of '21. At the onset of COVID, Leah followed along with the department's pivot to a fully online season, and began to write a play with an uncertain path. At that point we didn't yet know the possibilities for the production of the script in terms of if, how, and where we would be able to perform it. She never hesitated and forged ahead by concentrating on the writing and shaping of the piece, ready to respond to the ever-changing COVID landscape. This quote from her amended proposal is indicative of her working philosophy throughout the process.
"I believe that theatre artists are uniquely well equipped to meet the challenges of communicating and storytelling, because we understand the importance of connecting with people quickly and creatively, and doing so in a way that is appealing and impactful to an audience. By writing and producing this play, I will demonstrate the power of education packaged within entertainment; I believe that theatre, in a time like the current pandemic, is a way to provoke awareness (and ultimately the most inclusive conversation possible) about important social issues within our communities. I hope this project will deepen my knowledge and facility with dramatic literature and art, while I learn to hone and convey messages for my contemporary audience in a way that builds my community. Additionally, I’ll get to develop my theatre and arts management skills through exposure to new areas of production and partnerships with other experts . . . I am amazed and inspired by Salomon’s timely employment of artistic practice to depict her story, and can’t wait to bring it alive on the Lehigh stage alongside my own life, story and contemporary context. Salomon’s masterpiece is a time capsule of one young person’s perception of her world, but is, moreover, a model example of how art can and should be used as a vehicle for community education and empathy."
While Leah was writing the script during the fall semester, the department formulated a plan with her to film a fully produced play live onstage with sets, lights, costumes, and sound. So not only would this be a fully produced play, it would also be filmed, a first for everyone involved. Leah showed exemplary collaborative and leadership skills by leading a full design and editing team of students through a completely new process. Together they created storyboards and followed a shooting schedule that spanned four 4-day periods over a month. Her methodical planning and dedication resulted in one of the best collaborative processes I have ever witnessed during my ten years at Lehigh, whether student or professionally led. I am in awe of Leah's fearlessness, flexibility, and willingness to take risks with this project. Leah has created an amazing piece of theatre by honoring an incredible artist through a well-researched, contemplative, and empathic lens.