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Play bears witness to family resilience in the face of separation and trauma

October 1st, 2019

Madison Hofer-Holdeman as Lusia in "A Shayna Maidel"

Bethel's Fall Festival play, A Shayna Maidel by Barbara Lebow, debuted on a New York stage more than 30 years ago and still resonates with today’s headlines.

Director John McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts, chose A Shayna Maidel from among several plays with strong female roles, he said.

Bethel’s production of A Shayna Maidel will be on the Krehbiel Auditorium stage in Luyken Fine Arts Center Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 12 at 3:30 p.m. and Oct. 13 at 2 p.m.

Lebow wrote A Shayna Maidel in 1984. After productions in several regional theaters, the play opened at the Westside Arts Theater in New York in October 1987.

From 1987-89, it was widely produced in leading regional theaters across the United States, while enjoying a successful run off Broadway.

A Shayna Maidel (the title means “pretty girl” in Yiddish) is the story of two Polish-born sisters separated when their parents planned to move the family to America but the older sister came down with scarlet fever. Their father and 4-year-old Rose sailed for Brooklyn while their mother and Lusia stayed behind.

Now it’s nearly 20 years later. Lusia has survived the rise of the Nazis and the concentration camp in which her mother died and has come to live with 20-something Rose, who has almost no memories of mother or sister.

McCabe-Juhnke first became aware of the play in the early 2000s when it was a Bethel College production directed by Arlo Kasper.

In addition to its major roles for women, McCabe-Juhnke chose A Shayna Maidel because of the way its subject matter “lines up with current conversations on immigration,” he said.

“You don’t have to think too far to recognize the trauma family separation causes, and that forces families to flee their homes.”

Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for non-Bethel students and adults age 65 and older, and $7 for children ages 3-12, and are available at Thresher Shop in Schultz Student Center, or by phone with a credit card at 316-284-5205, during regular business hours, Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m., or in the Luyken Fine Arts Center ticket office a minimum of one hour before show-time, subject to availability.

The cast of A Shayna Maidel is Polly Carlson, senior from Freeman, S.D., as Rose Weiss and Madison Hofer-Holdeman, senior from Wichita, as Lusia Weiss Pechenik, with Luke Unruh, senior from Goessel, as their father, Mordechai Weiss. Supporting roles are Matthew Garber, senior from Newton, as Duvid Pechenik, Jaxie Gerk, junior from Holyoke, Colo., as Hannah, and Lauren Nehrbass, senior from Parsons, as Mama.

Damon Klassen, Bethel instructor of theater, is the scenic designer and technical director. Stage manager is Rachel Geyer, freshman from Oxford, Iowa, costumes are by Ellie Bradley, sophomore from Newton, and properties are by Kelly Habegger, junior from Hesston. Sound design is by Jesse Balzer, junior from Hurley, S.D., and soundboard operator is Jerod Kaufman, sophomore from Moundridge. The choreographer is Amber Hett.

The running crew is Tino Bernal, freshman from Wharton, Texas, Alix Gallop, junior from La Mirada, Calif., Emma Girton, senior from Wichita, Irwin Mike, junior from Riverside, Calif., Kayla Newman, sophomore from Sedgwick, and Elijah Wilson, junior from Aurora, Colo.

For a complete Fall Festival 2018 schedule, see, or call 316-284-5251 for more information.

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel is the highest ranked Kansas private college, at #12, in “Washington Monthly,” Top 200 Bachelor’s Colleges; ranks at #23 in “U.S. News & World Report,” Best Regional Colleges Midwest; is’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to; and earned its second-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star gold award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2019-20. For more information, see


About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.