Etty Comes to Olney

Etty Comes to Olney
Etty Play
Photo Credit: Ricardo Barros

“If I should not survive, how I die will show me who I really am.” – Etty Hillesum

The critically acclaimed play Etty is coming to Olney Friends School.

Actress Susan Stein brings her one-woman show to Ohio for the first time on Friday, February 26th at 8:00 P.M. The following synopsis comes from the official Etty website:

Using only Etty Hillesum’s words, Susan Stein’s adaptation brings us to 1941 when Esther “Etty” Hillesum, a young Dutch Jewish woman, is living in Amsterdam. Upon the recommendation of her therapist, Julius Spier, she began a diary on 8 March 1941 to help her with her depression. Hoping to become a writer, the diaries take on their own literary life, presenting both Etty’s growth as a writer and spiritual transformation. As deportations begin, she prepares for the three day journey eastward, she digs deeper into her soul to understand “this piece of history” and root out any hatred or bitterness, believing that humanity is the best and only solution for survival. Etty’s words, insights and beliefs reach out from the Holocaust and allow us to see the power of hope and individual thought in the most extreme circumstances. In her gentle yet forthright way, Etty asks us not to leave her at Auschwitz but to let her have a “bit of a say” in what she hopes will be a new world.


For nearly eight years, Stein has taken her act on the road, performing across the United States and internationally. Her performance at Olney comes after a lengthy tour of the United Kingdom, with shows at the Oxford Quaker Meeting House, Derby Friends Meeting House, Cheltenham Meeting House, and the Birmingham Progressive Synagogue. Etty has also appeared stateside at Vanderbilt University, Duquesne University, Boston College, Boston University, Syracuse University School of Education and dozens of other venues.

Etty ran in Wheeling, WV, on November 8th at an event co-sponsored by St. Michael’s Parish and Temple Shalom. Students and faculty were eagerly anticipating the performance, but a traffic jam on I-70 prevented school vehicles from making it to the event on time. Disappointed they had missed the show, students felt that inviting Stein to campus would be a fitting denouement to the “February Friday” itinerary.

What separates Etty from so many other theatrical presentations is the fact that Stein affords her audience a chance to interact with her after the show. Each performance is followed by an audience-led discussion that effectively becomes the second act of the play. The complicated Etty character adds a fresh perspective into something so ubiquitously studied in high school – the Holocaust – and the follow-up discussion allows the audience to impact the performance so much that each show is unique.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, or to RSVP for the event, call our main office at 740-425-3655 or email us at