“Thrilling, suspenseful, emotionally charged and revelatory. Excellently acted by Hudock and Brockman. DFW is lucky to have this lovingly crafted production. Through it, we can witness the heroism of Hans and Sophie Scholl while also enjoying high-caliber theater. The significance of the Scholls’ history is made all the more real to us by a truly beautiful production, its beauty commensurate with its message of human bravery and sacrifice.” Dallas Observer
Directed by Illana Stein, Sean plays Hans in the world premiere of Hans & Sophie created by Sean Hudock, Illana Stein and Deborah Yarchun. Rebekah Brockman plays Sophie. Performances run February 7 – March 1, 2020 at Amphibian Stage in Fort Worth, TX in partnership with the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, Plough Publishing, The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County and The White Rose Foundation, Munich, sponsored in part by George Weinhouse MD.
Inspired by the letters, diaries and coded correspondences of two students who led a massive underground movement against the Nazis, Hans & Sophie is an intimate two character portrait of resistance and conviction in the darkest of times.
Hans & Sophie received developmental support as part of the 2018 Artist Residency Program of The Drama League of New York as well as part of Amphibian Stage’s 2019 Metamorphosis series.
“The beautifully realized script allows Hans and Sophie to speak in their own words of all the things going on in their lives and hearts. The two-hander comes alive because the actors envelop us in the chemistry they create together. Hudock and Brockman are charming and vivid as individuals, and heart-wrenching as a brother and sister. The dialogue between the two is as fresh and immediate as an overheard conversation. The piercing scenes of this remarkable play will stay with you much longer than the show itself, and remind you that the mantra “silence equals complicity” is still not ready to be retired.” TheaterJones
Dallas Observer: At Amphibian Stage, Hans & Sophie Is a Moving Story of Nazi Resistance
By Anna Lowery | February 11, 2020
In the 1930s, children all over Germany were sucked into Hitler’s ideology by means of the youth organization Hitlerjugend. Two such children were Hans and Sophie Scholl. Like many Germans, the Scholl siblings were initially enamored by the promises of national socialism and eager to swear loyalty to their country and the Führer. However, within a few years they had begun to recognize the reality of Naziism. Unable to outwardly defy Hitler, the two began an underground resistance with a few friends called the White Rose. The group secretly distributed pamphlets throughout Germany, alerting the public to the inhumanity of national socialism.
In 1943, Hans and Sophie were captured by the Gestapo and executed for crimes against the state. This puts a stamp of tragedy on their story; in spite of this, they were influential in the disillusionment of the Third Reich and are an encouraging reminder of the possible strength of humanity even under harsh situations like dictatorships.
In honor of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, Amphibian Stage in Fort Worth is premiering their own version of the Scholls’ story called Hans & Sophie, from now through March 1.
The play was written by Deborah Yarchun, Illana Stein and Sean Hudock; Stein also directs, and Hudock plays Hans. The collaborative creation of the play from script to performance gives it an intimate, curated cohesion. This plays leans heavily on language: although the moments of live dialogue are convincing and delightful, there are also many more poetic soliloquies and asides, as well as recitations from important works of German literature. The characters’ eloquence may be unrealistic, but it contributes to the poetic portrait of young heroism and sacrifice.
The characters’ eloquence may be unrealistic, but it contributes to the poetic portrait of young heroism and sacrifice. And realism isn’t the sole aim of this play, anyway. Although it’s a true story, the production transcends the limitations of reality. Much of this is achieved through its minimalist style. There are only two actors and both are onstage for pretty much the entire play. They make quick costume changes onstage to signal the passing of time and changing of circumstance: an army jacket tells us Hans is now fighting on the front, an apron tells us Sophie (Rebekah Brockman) has been forced into the menial factory work mandated by the Third Reich.
When the two characters aren’t physically together, they communicate each other’s stories through letters read aloud. An impressive lighting design by Kenneth Farnsworth also helps the audience transition from one scene to the next — his lighting adds dramatic depth to more serious scenes and a carefree mood to the play’s few happy scenes. The production is simple but uses its simplicity to great effect.
That simplicity is contrasted by a quick-paced and thrilling plot. Many people will already be familiar with the Scholls’ history. If they aren’t, they’ll discover how their story ends before they discover the rest of it: the play begins with the dramatic and effective sentencing of the siblings, aged 24 and 21 at the time of the trial, to death. Only once we know how the play will end does its story begin. But even though we know the end of the story, its beginning and middle remain suspenseful, emotionally charged and revelatory.
Following the play’s cold open, Hans and Sophie dance back to their childhood. They are suddenly ingenuous children playing in the woods, chanting their loyalties to Hitler, bearing swastikas on their sleeves. Their innocent commitment to Hitler’s ideology reminds us of the massive ignorance and innocence behind every corrupt government.
It isn’t long, however, before the Scholls begin to lose their innocence. Hans is quick to reveal himself as the more foolhardy sibling, and it is this very foolhardiness that leads to his disillusionment with the Nazi party as a teenager. He was arrested for a hinted-at relationship with another boy as well as the initiation of a youth group separate from the Hitler Youth. His arrest alerts both Hans and Sophie to the inhumane restrictions of Nazism.
The years pass and the siblings grow in their hatred of Hitler; but they also grow in their love of music, literature, and knowledge. Both end up studying at the University of Munich, where they celebrate being together by reciting German poems to each other. When they first begin printing and distributing pamphlets as the White Rose, they use Goethe’s explicitly anti-totalitarian poetry. In this story, the Scholls’ love of art and dedication to their studies communicates the atrocity of the Third Reich, which, through the persecution of the Jewish people and forced labor of national socialism, prohibited the excellence of many artists, students and citizens. The Scholls don’t merely protest the Nazi’s destruction of human dignity and life: They demonstrate why humans possess dignity and why freedom should be protected, not prohibited.
They bear witness to the beauty of humanity through their acts of resistance, but they are also an example of just how good humans can be. The relationship of the siblings is what carries this play along, and it wouldn’t work if it weren’t excellently acted by Hudock and Brockman. The only two actors in the production have to portray an impressive variety of emotions and characteristics as Hans and Sophie undergo the many vicissitudes of their short lives. All throughout, they convince us of their love and loyalty toward each other. This play doesn’t have many laughs, but those it does have are because of these siblings’ beautiful and real relationship.
DFW is lucky to have this lovingly crafted production. Through it, we can witness the heroism of Hans and Sophie Scholl while also enjoying high-caliber theater. The significance of the Scholls’ history is made all the more real to us by a truly beautiful production, its beauty commensurate with its message of human bravery and sacrifice.
TheaterJones: Speak Out. Now! In its world premiere at Amphibian Stage, Hans & Sophie compresses youthful heroism and tragedy into a riveting one-act about German siblings who defied Hitler.
By Martha Heimberg | February 12, 2020
When you walk into the building to see Hans & Sophie in its world premiere at Amphibian Stage, in the lobby you’ll first notice huge signs hanging from the scaffolding, with resonant words written by historic human rights advocates, reminding us all that silence in the face of injustice is collaboration with the criminal.
Inside the darkened intimate arena theater, we find our seats on three sides of an entire wall of worn brick and wood lathing given over to exquisite life-size projections of the forests and city streets and rooms inhabited by the German brother and sister beheaded by the Nazi regime for their courageous resistance activities during World War II. It’s theater at its white-knuckled best.
The trio of artists collaborating on this illuminating work, drawn from At the Heart of the White Rose, Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl, edited by Inge Jens, are lead playwright Deborah Yarchun, playwright Sean Hudock, and director/playwright Illana Stein. (See our interview with director Stein.)
Scenic designer Jeffrey Stanfield, together with projection designer Driscoll Otto and lighting designer Kenneth Farnsworth, pull us into the scene, both literally and figuratively. The single table sitting center stage holds a suitcase, a symbol of escape and the literal vessel of dissent to carry the leaflets they print up on their hand-cranked duplicating machine. The truth they have learned about Hitler’s evil “elimination of the useless” is carried to cities all over Germany, from Munich, where they are students, to Stuttgart and Frankfort, and Oxford in England. The siblings practice a lie to tell curious authorities about why they are carrying a suitcase: “I am visiting my parents.” Both their mother and father opposed Nazi policies, and the offspring come to see why.
We first meet brother and sister as enthusiastic members of the Hitler-Jugend, the Nazi youth group for fascists in training. Hans (Hudock) marches in the woods with other boys shouting their motto, “Blood and honor!” Sophie (Rebekah Brockman) joins the League of German Girls, but admits to Hans that the other girls tell her she doesn’t look anything like the blonde girl in the Hitler posters
In a few swift scenes, we look on as these smart, sensitive young people are thrown into a totalitarian state, and quickly learn what’s really going on in the front lines, and the truth about the Nazi’s murderous concentration camps.
Early on, young Hans is charged with “immorality” for his “friendship” with another boy, who reported him. Later in the play, Hans assures Sophie that, as the leader of the White Rose Nazi resistance movement at the university, he knows how to paint graffiti in the middle of the night without detection. “My life has been spent hiding secrets,” he says. Another strength of this insightful play is the clear implication of Hans’ homosexuality, and how his experience helped him relate to the Jews and “useless” people the Nazis earmarked for extermination. Although the brother and sister have been memorialized in books, opera and monuments in Germany, references to Hans’ sexuality are mostly omitted because his surviving sister originally edited his letters and diaries to be sure his radicalization was not attributed to something other than a love of freedom.
The beautifully realized script allows Hans and Sophie to speak in their own words of all the things going on in their lives and hearts. The dialogue between the two is as fresh and immediate as an overheard conversation. Their love of Thomas Mann and Goethe and other Romantic German poets inspires us as much as their reading fires them with the love of freedom.
Hans and Sophie are not intentional martyrs. They know the risks involved in what they’re doing, and they are not simply venting their anger and frustration on Twitter. They want to act for what they believe is right, and they want to live. But they don’t want to live in a state where they must pretend they cannot see visible destruction and human atrocities. Hans write on a leaflet, “We are your bad conscience; we will not be silenced.”
The two-hander comes alive because the actors envelop us in the chemistry they create together. Hudock and Brockman are charming and vivid as individuals, and heart-wrenching as a brother and sister with a loving connection, both spiritual and historical. They argue with each other, they talk about their parents together, they challenge and dare each other in their quests, sometimes literally chasing around the stage in a game of tag or seeking via a letter a push-back to an idea or scheme. Most of all, they love each other and depend on one another in the easy way of longtime friendships.
Hudock’s Hans is a young man of extremes. He is still and thoughtful at one moment, telling his sister of the sad encounter he had with a Jewish child on the way back from the Eastern front. Or he is speeding onto the scene, energized by the latest pamphlet he’s written and readied for Sophie to pack up and spread the word. At one point they circle the stage, delivering newly printed copies on the front rows.
Brockman’s bright, mischievously smiling Sophie has the fresh-scrubbed look of a school girl, and the grace of a dancer, whether scrambling up a staircase or sitting down to a piano to play the delicate opening chord of a Bach prelude. Sometimes she praises and sometimes she scolds her big brother, but ultimately the two stand together against an evil they both cannot abide.
We know what the outcome of this story of courage will be, and the end is breathtakingly swift. The play is powerful because Hans and Sophie are such dynamic, risk-taking, committed young people, laying it on the line for what they believe. They would be heroes in any human society, and their idealism and valor feel especially powerful in our own politically divided times.
The piercing scenes of this remarkable play will stay with you much longer than the show itself, and remind you that the mantra “silence equals complicity” is still not ready to be retired.