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Playing for Life
I've always said that we do theater -- we actors, directors, designers, spectators -- in order to live, but I was always speaking metaphorically. For the Jewish artists in the Vilna Ghetto during World War II, their skills as artists meant the difference -- actually, not metaphorically -- between life and death. Between 1941, when it was established, and 1943, when it was liquidated, the Nazis murdered more than 60,000 residents of the Vilna Ghetto. Joshua Sobel's play with music, Ghetto, is a retelling of the heroism of Vilna's theater artists to maintain physical and spiritual life in the face of unspeakable horrors. It opens May 2 at New Conservatory Theater, produced by the Galatean Players Ensemble.

Why this show? Artistic Director Kathy McCarty's response is immediate: "I first saw the show 10 years ago at the International Theater Festival in Chicago, performed by an Israeli company, and I was amazed by the power of the company and the play. The script calls for a strong ensemble cast and seemed perfect for us. ... I was amazed at what we learned that we didn't know about the Holocaust. I talked with people who didn't know what the swastika stood for. I met a woman whose brother died in Auschwitz. She told me that the swastikas and the gangs and the hatred are just what it was like in Germany, and that we have to be careful. We're not a political theater company," McCarty continues, "but we are interested in plays with social relevance. We want to do theater that says to people, 'Look at this; examine your own life.' " Call 861-8972.

Return of a Committee Man
Larry Hankin, late of the Committee, a satirical/improv performance company that entertained S.F. in the '60s, returns to the Bay Area with a new one-person show, Emmett Sez. Hankin spent two years living on the street, "before homelessness became trendy," he says. "The play is about the adventures I had when I was living in my car. Emmett is a man I may or may not have met while I was a street person. He is a poet and a storyteller, a really cool guy." Hankin came of age as an artist and an actor doing the politically charged improvisations that were the hallmark of the Committee. He prefers to work here rather than L.A., because "in L.A. it's about getting a TV or movie job. In San Francisco, it's about the work." Emmett Sez opens May 3 at the Marsh. Call 826-5750.

Can there be a greater harbinger of spring than the San Francisco Mime Troupe? The company's latest, Gotta Getta Life, a musical comedy, will be performed, for free, in Dolores Park on May 4 at 1 and 3 p.m., and at various venues around the Bay Area. Call 285-1717.

By Deborah Peifer

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