Letters to Sala: More than Another War Story

Letters to Sala
Katy Grant and Lynne Franks play Sala at different ages. Photo credit: Heather Spirik

World War II stories have permeated the film industry for decades and are still wildly prevalent among the blockbusters of today: Casablanca, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and more recent films like The Imitation Game and Unbroken tell of the resilience of the human heart under the darkest circumstances. We are moved by these stories because they give us hope that we might persevere no matter what obstacles stand in our way.

As winter draws near and the air gets chillier, Pittsburghers are looking for more and more reasons to stay nestled in the warmth of their homes. While it’s true that you could stay home, pop some popcorn, and watch Saving Private Ryan for the third or fourth time, Little Lake Theatre Company will present a completely different kind of World War II story this weekend, and you do not want to miss it.

The play, entitled Letters to Sala, is the remarkable story of how 16-year-old Sala Garncarz managed to conceal over 350 letters from her family and friends during her five-year imprisonment in seven different labor camps. In a unique twist on what could have simply been “another war story,” Letters to Sala chronicles not only the trials of this young girl in 1941, but also of the grown Sala and her family in 2005 as they decide whether or not the letters should be treasured only by the family or published for the world to read.

“This story is told through what is called ‘temporal mechanics,’ or when you see a story told through the eyes of the same person at two different points in his or her life,” explained ensemble cast member Pam Pasternak.

“It’s a tricky narrative move,” she said, “but here it is done right, and it is the heart and soul of this play. Characters from the past and present cross boundaries and interact, and in beautiful moments of honesty, they help the audience understand that the struggles didn’t end when Sala was released from labor; they followed her throughout her life. She must face them again even in her old age, and so must her family.

“It’s a true, emotional story about the power of friendship and family and the strength we find when we connect with those souls we love most,” Pasternak continued.

If there is one thing the cast and crew are sure of, it is how special a story they have on their hands. And with that knowledge comes a commendable sense of responsibility to tell the story right.

Letters to Sala is beautiful because it’s real,” said Lindy Spear, one of the youngest members of the cast. “True stories are the most important ones, and the whole cast wants to do Sala’s story justice. That really brought us all together as a cast.”

“This story is unlike any other war story I’ve come across because it is less about the specific events of World War II and more about their effects on a family over the course of many, many decades,” shared actor Jake Nowe. “It’s about the bonds of sisters and mothers and relatives of all ages enduring no matter how harsh or cruel the world may be. It’s a story that will move every audience member who comes to share this experience with us.”

Letters to Sala runs October 22-25; 29-30-November 1; and 5-7. Tickets can be purchased online at www.littlelake.org/box-office/ or by calling the Little Lake box office at (724) 745-6300.

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