A real-life hero’s story

Published 7:53 pm Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Community Theatre to present play set during World War II


Just weeks after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a play set during World War II will take center stage in Albert Lea.

“Irena’s Vow” is the true story of Irena Gut Opdyke, a housekeeper for a Nazi officer during Adolf Hitler’s reign of terror. When she finds out the nearby Jewish ghetto is about to be liquidated, the titular character and real-life hero becomes determined to help 12 Jewish workers by sheltering them in the safest place she can think of: the basement of the German commandant’s house.

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Pat Parsons plays Opdyke in the drama, which Glen Parsons directs. Jason Howland, Luke Zacharias, Michael Lilienthal, Jennifer Gonsalves, Risha Lilienthal, Daniel Montenegro, Kris Bartley, Aaron McVicker and Logan Petersen also star.

Glen Parsons said the Albert Lea Community Theatre cast and crew have been working on the production since December, and the play has meant a lot to those working on it.

“Many know the story of Anne Frank. This is a story most people don’t know,” Parsons said. “It’s a beautiful story, and it needs to be told.”

It’s around the 15th production for the director, who said the story is especially important in contemporary society, especially with the way the United States is considered to be divided based on political beliefs. Parsons said parallels can be drawn to the divisiveness Germany and much of Europe faced as Hitler’s influence spread. The importance of the story is something that can evoke emotions, Parsons said, tearing up himself while discussing the play.

From left, Risha Lilienthal, Michael Lilienthal and Jennifer Gonsalves rehearse a scene from “Irena’s Vow,” which opens Thursday. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“I’m just so thrilled to be able to do this,” he said. “I’m just so touched by it.”

Parsons said the production has been a team effort, with the cast and crew talking, sharing and brainstorming together to make Opdyke’s story come alive.

“It’s a human story. It’s a story of hope. It’s an inspirational story,” Parsons said. “It’s really a beautiful story.”

“Irena’s Vow” can be seen at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday this week or at 2 p.m. Sunday. It will also be performed at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 through Feb. 22, with all performances being at Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. Parsons said there are moments in the play that could be frightening for younger children, and said the appropriate audience is likely teenagers and adults.


Tickets, please

What: Albert Lea Community Theatre’s production of “Irena’s Vow”

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 through Feb. 22

Where: Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, 147 N. Broadway Ave. in downtown Albert Lea

How much: $15 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets can be purchased at 1-877-730-3144, actonbroadway.com, or at the theater box office or the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau


Cast and crew

Irena Gut Opdyke: Pat Parsons

Major Rugemer: Jason Howland

Rokita: Luke Zacharias

Lazar Haller: Michael Lilienthal

Ida Haller: Jennifer Gonsalves

Fanka Silberman: Risha Lilienthal

Schultz: Daniel Montenegro

Helen/Rokita’s secretary: Kris Bartley

SS officer/mayor of Jerusalem: Aaron McVicker

The visitor: Logan Petersen

Director: Glen Parsons

Assistant director/music director: George Favell

Technical director/set designer: Mark Bartleson

Lighting designer: Dietrich Poppen

Production manager: Jason Howland

Stage managers: Jan Rogness, Elaine Wallace

Costumes: Elizabeth Harty, Mary Ellen Johnson

Props, set dressing: Teresa Howland

Lights: Josh Gulbrandson

Sound: Sue Runden

Technical assistant: Phil Hanson

Pat Parsons as Irena Gut Opdyke rehearses a scene from Albert Lea Community Theatre’s upcoming production of “Irena’s Vow.” – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune


About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the photo editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. She does photography and writes general-assignment stories.

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