Steal a Pencil for Me: New Opera Based on True Holocaust Love Story to Be Performed at JTS

Press Contact: Eve Glasberg
Office: (212) 678-8089

April 9, 2013, New York, NY

A semi-staged concert performance of the new opera Steal a Pencil for Me will be given on Tuesday, April 30, at 7:00 p.m. at The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), which is located at 3080 Broadway (corner 122nd Street) in New York City. The music was composed by Dr. Gerald Cohen, adjunct assistant professor of Music at JTS, with libretto by Deborah Brevoort. This is one of two New York-area premiere performances of the work.

Admission is by ticket only. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door; and free for students with valid ID. Space is limited. Order tickets at (online ticket ordering open until 2:00 p.m. on the performance date). Please arrive at least 15 minutes early for check-in, and have photo ID available.

Steal a Pencil for Me is an opera in two acts about a true, fiercely optimistic, and most unusual love story that takes place during the Nazi period. It is based on the book of the same title about Jaap Polak, a Dutch accountant, and Ina Soep, the daughter of a wealthy diamond manufacturer from Amsterdam. A story about the indestructibility of the life spirit and the power of humankind to survive adversity, Steal a Pencil for Me explores intimate concerns and private dramas alongside the epic horrors of the Holocaust.

Jaap and Ina survived the Holocaust. They have been married for more than 65 years, and now live in Eastchester, New York. A distinguishing feature of their book of letters is how they allowed the story to unfold: their shortcomings and faults are just as easy to see as their nobility, and their honesty makes the story compelling and real. The Village Voice wrote that their story "offers a corrective to the sentimental prevailing notion that the Shoah only happened to saints." A documentary on the Polaks was released in 2007 by director Michele Ohayon, and aired on PBS.

The semi-staged concert performance of the opera at JTS will be part of Jaap's 100th birthday celebration, and Ina's 90th. The lead roles will be sung by Grammy Award-winning soprano Ilana Davidson and by Robert Balonek, known for his "commanding, steely baritone" (New York Times).

Dr. Gerald Cohen, adjunct assistant professor of Music at JTS, is noted for his "linguistic fluidity and melodic gift" (Gramophone Magazine). He has received awards including commissioning grants from Meet the Composer / National Endowment for the Arts and from the New York State Council on the Arts / Westchester Arts Council. Dr. Cohen earned a BA in Music from Yale University and a DMA in Composition from Columbia University. In addition to teaching at JTS, he is on the faculty of the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, New York, and serves as cantor at Shaarei Tikvah in Scarsdale, New York.

Deborah Brevoort, playwright and librettist/lyricist, is an alumna of the New Dramatists. She has won awards for The Women of Lockerbie; Into the Fire; and Signs of Life. Ms. Brevoort has received numerous grants and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts, among others. She holds an MFA in Playwriting from Brown University and an MFA in Musical Theatre writing from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She teaches at NYU-Tisch, Columbia University, and Goddard College; has done playwriting residencies around the world; and is a cofounder of Theatre Without Borders.

This performance is cosponsored the JTS Arts Advisory Board and the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music of JTS.