"Starting in Innocence" Tells Story of UMD Theatre Students Through Creative Process of Stage Play "Dear Finder"
A locally produced documentary has won a regional Emmy Award nomination from the National Television Academy's North Central Chapter. "Starting in Innocence" tracks UMD associate professor Tom Isbell and his students through the creative and emotional process behind the UMD stage play, "Dear Finder."
The one-hour feature documentary by Dan Woods and Steve Ash has been submitted to PBS for national broadcast. The project was underwritten by the Phillips Foundation and supported locally by WDSE, Steven and Ilene Goldfine, UMD, the Ben and Jeanne Overman Trust, Jack and Cindy Seiler and the Northland Jewish Fund.
"Dear Finder" is the Holocaust play produced by the UMD Theatre Department and selected for performance at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. "Starting in Innocence" tracks the changing perceptions and attitudes of the white, non-Jewish, Midwestern writers, cast and crew as they meet survivors, read personal accounts and watch films about the Holocaust. In addition to Tom Isbell, the film centers on former students Andy Nelson, Brenda Hattingh, Pegah Kadkhodaian, Timm Veddar, and Erin Reilly.
"The Holocaust happened long ago, to other people, far away," explains the documentary's writer and director Dan Woods. "Why should these college students care? None of them got into the "Dear Finder" project because they had a personal connection or a real background with the Holocaust. Andy, Brenda and Pegah very honestly explain that at the outset it was about them as performers. It was about being in a play. The film's energy comes from seeing that change, seeing them deeply connect with someone else's experience, and then seeing that grow into the profound honesty, respect and sense of community that became the hallmark of their journey."
These intimate experiences were captured at close quarters by Steve Ash's documentary camera. Bruce Bowers created the original music score. Tom Livingston provided production development and location sound. Additional production support was provided WDSE and Pro Video Productions.
PBS policy allows documentaries one local broadcast prior to submission for national broadcast. "Starting in Innocence was broadcast in April22, 2003 in Duluth on PBS-8. The winners of the regional Emmy Awards will be announced on October 25.
Dan Woods is currently working with Steve Ash on a second independent documentary about the inside experience of the UMD Women's Hockey Team's third consecutive national championship.