|COUPLE PROMOTE "SLIVER OF HOPE"
by Christine Wang, Daily Record News, June 2, 2004
|HUSBAND-AND-W IFE THEATER GROUP OFFERS WORKSHOPS
What if more rescuers filled the world than perpetrators of violence and crime?
The question is one that Parsippany residents Diana Sunrise and Isaac Dostis ask
The husband-and-wife team use their theater group, Act 1 Presentations, to promote a "sliver of hope" that people don't stand by
while violence is committed, but rather, stand up to it.
Using the Holocaust as an example of the "sliver's" impact, the couple lead Moral Courage workshops, bringing acting and inter-
active theater to schools throughout New Jersey and neighboring states.
Together, they make their life's work teaching nonviolence and peace-making in schools, libraries and museums.
They offer live performances of "The Trial of Susan B. Anthony" and "Lives to Save: The Rescuers."
Their workshops include the seven-week "Moral Courage: A Way of Life," and daylong "Moral Courage Leadership Program."
These programs use an acting method developed by Russian director Konstantin Stanislavski.
With it, the couple promote "seeding," or planting seeds in students and adults to think differently to create a better world.
The director believed that it's crucial for actors to understand their character's thoughts to create the character's behavior on stage.
When expressed truthfully, thoughts and behavior bring the actor into the life-like state of emotions.
Dostis and Sunrise bring this belief into the classroom.
If children can learn what their thoughts are, then through theatrical means, they can change their thoughts and thereby their
behavior and emotions.
"Actual thoughts affect behavior," Dostis said, "We speak with images (it's difficult to speak abstractly), so the stronger the image,
the stronger the emotion."
Behavior, being a "series of actions," can be changed.
"Just as actors choose how they build their character, children can choose the way they think and ultimately, the people they
want to be," Dostis said.
The "sliver of hope," he said, is where we learn our lessons. "We understand bystanders and victims, the perpetrators; but the most depth comes from the rescuers. If they can do ti in the worst of times (such as during the Holocaust), why not now?"
Along with strong family morals and thinking for themselves, rescuers are more likely to have friends among the group attacked:
"It's difficult not to sand up whenever you know the person," Dostis said.
Giving Adolph Hitler as an example of one of the worst bullies in history, the couple offer ways to stand up to bullies in schools
Students practice being as loud as a bully, responding with rhyming phrases, using body language and finding someone nearby to
"We teach the children, become an actor to get what you want. Ask a stranger nearby, 'Excuse me, do you have the time?' If you
need help," Dostis said.
The two have many other projects under way, including scripts for a dozen one-act plays and Dostis' new children's book, "Ten
Gold Medals: Glory or Freedom."
An adventure story, it's based on a true story of his uncle's escape from Greece during World War II.
"Not many people know there was a Holocaust in Greece ... as well as in the rest of Europe," he writes in the book.
As Dostis' uncle, Isaac Koen, escapes with his family through the underground from athens to Palestine, he must systematically
give away his gold medals won at state competitions for javelin, hurdles and running in the late 1920 and 1930's.
The medals become literal tokens of appreciation for those who help his family get to safety.
The book will be published in October and friend Tony Urgo has film rights for Walking Tour Films in San Diego, Calif.
Sunrise is working on a children's book: "I Wanna Be a Giraffe," as well as an autobiography tentatively titled, "Mommy, Please
While a member of the Actors Studio in Manhattan, she created many roles for stage and theater, including for their video, "Lives
to Save: The Rescuers."
Film directing is one of Dostis' passions.
Their Act 1 Presentations film, "We Are Not Alone - Greek Jews & The Holocaust," recently was shown at Fairleigh Dickinson
University in Teaneck.
Narrated by Dostis and Sunrise, the film is based on the Dostis family's experiences during the war.
The eventual rescue of part of his family by Greek Righteous (non-Jewish rescuers) and Kristallnacht, the night in 1938 when
synagogues were burned in Germany and Austria, also are part of the story.
Another of Dostis' films, "Farewell, My Island," was timed to the actual 22 minutes that it took to round up Jews on the Greek
island of Corfu.
Sunrise's voiceovers punctuate the film as a young girl trying to understand why her familly is herded to the beaches and boats.
Dostis is also the founder of Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.
An exhibit, "Out of the Ashes," opened there April 4, commemorating the 60 years since the Jews of Janina were taken. Some
of them wre relatives of Dostis.
"We wanted to show how people survived and made lives for themselves," he said.
One of the four areas in the exhibit features the book "Yannina: A Journey to the Past," written by his third cousin; Eftichia
Nachmias. Dostis edited and wrote a dedication for the book.
The couple are busy with new projects: another film, the possible opening of a museum on Greek Jews in Albania and the
recreation of a tour to concentration camps in Athens, set for 2005.
For "The Rhodes Project: A Documentary on the Exodus and Deportation of the Sephardic Jews of Rhodes," They are searching
for survivors and descendants of those in the Holocaust on the Greek island of Rhodes during World War II.
So far, Dostis has located two descendants: one in Ontario, Canada, the other in New York City. He hopes others will be found
as the film project continues.
|Tyson Trish / Daily Record|
|For information on this project or Act 1 Presentations, call (973) 984-6618 or send e-mail to