Eleanor's Story: An American Girl in Hitler's Germany

solo performance · offending shadows · Ages 12+ · United States of America

one person show
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June 18, 2015 original article
tagged as: WWII · drama · theatre · minimalist

My overall impression

When you talk about a war not lacking in coverage, WW2 might be the most covered war in America’s history (no actual research on this). Because of this serious saturation of media, we are all very familiar with this time period– Nazis were vicious, Hitler was a huge prick, and there was of course a serious loss of life in the infamous death camps which are now the standard by which many people measure humanity’s capacity for evil. Vitally important stories, but since they are told so often I don’t usually jump at the chance to see another one of these shows. And it occurs to me, do I need to see another WW2 show? Maybe Schindler’s List got it right the first time.

It turns out the answer to my question is yes. After watching Ingrid Garner, granddaughter to author Eleanor Garner, act out a play based on Eleanor’s life story, the answer is a resounding yes. The play brings with it the realization that this story I have heard over, and over, and over again, was really not that long ago. It is still very relevant and worthy of attention. All alone, Ingrid Garner tells us a passionate and youthful story about the dangers of war and its destructive power on everything it touches. This story is taken from the perspective of a young Eleanor who was very much a child when her family made the mistake of moving to Germany during WW2. While watching this play we grow up with Eleanor as she learns how to adapt to Nazi Germany and experiences a life vastly different from her American one.

In the background are two chairs, a box and a well placed projector that shows various photos and old stock footage from the Garner family in both the US and Germany. Just like Ingrid, the chairs and box are transformed during the play. They become a bomb shelter, furniture, and even an actual human being. Even though I can and did use my imagination when Garner treats the chair as a human, I don’t believe it really adds anything to the scene besides a very awkward trip on the floor with a wooden chair. The props do have their merit. I feel the lulling security when listening to funny childhood stories about the Hitler Youth-then an abrupt awakening with the loud clanking of the box, zapping us all out of the fantasy and back to the reality of this very dangerous world.

Eleanor’s Story is a wonderfully minimalist play and Ingrid Garner works extremely well in this, bringing with her a fresh perspective on WW2 not often seen in the mainstream media.The transformation of her voice and dedication to each character is phenomenal. If you can get over the unimaginative set, you are in for a very interesting theatre experience.


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