Sewing Together the Pieces of History at Valparaiso University: “The Singer of Shanghai”

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Community News & People in the News

Published on April 15, 2020 with No Comments

The Singer of Shanghai” tells the story of the Abraham family and their experience of escaping the Holocaust. Using information collected by Dr. Kevin Ostoyich the students will write their own script based on various articles, interviews, and other materials provided to them in class. The course and production are co-instructed by historian Dr. Kevin Ostoyich, and director Dr. Kari-Anne Innes.

According to Kevin Ostoyich “The goal is to produce a total learning experience that involves in-depth investigation of a historical subject, the translation of the historical material into a theatrical drama and performance. At the end of the semester, students will perform their production to the Valpo community”. “The Singer of Shanghai” like previous productions will be based on the experiences of Nazi Germany Jewish refugees seeking safety in Shanghai. When the rest of the world closed their entrances to their countries, Shanghai provided a safe place for the refugees to live until the Japanese takeover of China in 1943. Under Japanese instruction the Jewish community was required to live in what is referred to as the “Shanghai Ghetto” which was a designated area in Hongkou where they remained until the end of World War II. The production is unique this year for two reasons. The first being with the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus many people are beginning the process of adapting their work or academic life to one that is on a digital platform. The second reason “The Singer of Shanghai” is unique this year is because a Singer sewing machine is one of the focal points in this play. The play tells the story of Ida Abraham and how she used her Singer showing machine to make a living for her family during their time in Shanghai as well as using her knowledge to teach other women to sew.

Anyone interested in hearing the empowering story that Historical Theatre students are learning and writing about are courteously invited to listen to the the production over the YouTube Channel “Historical Theatre: Shanghai Jewish Refugees beginning on May 12, 2020.

Valparaiso University was first founded in 1859 with the hopes of creating an institution with a foundation based on liberal arts, in addition they offer professional training and graduate studies to help students pursue a future that will set them on a path to personal, spiritual, and professional growth.

For any questions that arise please contact Dr. Kari-Anne Innes at 1-219-464-6843 or If you are interested in seeing how Dr. Kevin Ostoyich became interested in the history of the Shanghai Jewish Refugees please visit

The production tells the actual story of a family seeking refuge in Shanghai, China during World War II.

The production is written and produced by current students in Valparaiso University’s Historical Theatre Course: The Shanghai Jews.

The production will be broadcast over the YouTube Channel “Historical Theatre: Shanghai Jewish Refugees on May 12, 2020.



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