Anna Smulowitz Schutz was born in a displaced persons camp in Plattling, Germany, to Holocaust survivors Sam and Helen Smulowitz. They immigrated to the United States in 1948, where Ms. Smulowtiz Schutz began her schooling. Completing coursework at Lesley University and the University of Cincinnati, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Kentucky followed by a master’s degree from Brandeis University. In 1969, Ms. Smulowitz Schutz attended a museum exhibit about the art and poetry of the children at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. One note in particular caught her attention: “If you should find this, tell someone what happened to us. We want to go home, please remember us.”
Ms. Smulowitz Schutz finished writing the play “Terezin: Children of the Holocaust” in 1971, which premiered at the University of Cincinnati and marked the beginning of the Terezin Project, which still produces the play to this day. In 1979, she founded the Newburyport Children’s Theater, where she produced “Terezin” in 1983. The Newburyport Children’s Theater became the Theater in the Open in 1994. Today, she operates Anna Smulowitz Productions, where she is the artistic director, developing and producing plays for the Actors Studio of Newburyport and the Firehouse Center for the Arts and collaborating with a wide range of local actors, directors, designers, writers, choreographers, musicians and stage technicians.
The Terezin Project has been in operation for over 50 years now, having celebrated its 50th anniversary on May 18, 2021, and when asked why she still produces the play, Ms. Smulowitz Schutz, a staunch social justice advocate, tells people to simply look outside or watch TV. The world is still full of injustice, from racism to antisemitism, and her goal is to work toward the eradication of hate. She notes that her persistent dedication to this goal, and the desire to prevent anything like the Holocaust from happening again, to be the major driving forces behind her success. Since its inception, the Terezin Project has staged hundreds of productions and she is particularly proud of being invited to put on performances in Cuba and Panama. In 2021, “Terezin: Children of the Holocaust” was adapted into a feature film in an effort to continue to make the play accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to “Terezin,” Ms. Smulowitz Schutz’ portfolio of plays includes “The Littlest Angel,” “Heidi,” “Millyard Mass,” “The Voyage of Meghan O’Dell” and “Harry Dingledary’s Day,” among others, and she has produced, directed or acted in over 150 shows in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Furthermore, she was responsible for the development of three major summer arts programs for her community and continues to teach at Acting Out Productions, which provides theatrical workshops for students aged 4-18. She has been incredibly gratified to see her students graduate and go on to become accomplished professionals. In order to keep up to date with developments in the arts, Ms. Smulowitz Schutz maintains professional affiliation with the Newburyport Art Association and has given presentations to Young Audiences of Massachusetts.
Alongside her work in the arts, Ms. Smulowitz Schutz has done considerable work in activism, both locally and internationally. In 2020, she was a speaker for the “Inhabiting Hope: Artivism, Our Universal Language” event with the Global Citizens Circle; was interviewed in conversation with a former member of the Nazi Party by Jane Pauley for Dateline NBC; and had the opportunity to meet New York City Mayor Eric Adams when he gave a talk on social justice and the racial divide. In her hometown of Newburyport, she has volunteered as an educator and the chair for the Martin Luthor King Breakfast and is involved with the North Shore Anti-Defamation League. Ms. Smulowitz Schutz has additionally been ordained as an interfaith minister through the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine since 2005 and donates her time as a pastoral minister in hospitals as well as holding membership in the National Association of Jewish Chaplains.
For her excellence, Ms. Smulowitz Schutz was named Person of the Year by Seneca High School in Louisville, Kentucky, an award she was nominated for by her former high school drama teacher. She was incredibly touched, particularly because it had been so long since she’d graduated, she hadn’t realized her teacher was still alive. She has also received several awards for “Terezin,” including the Children’s Television Award in 1984, the Newburyport Mayor’s Art Award and the 1994 Model People Award from the Timberland Corporation. In 2008, Ms. Smulowitz Schutz was presented with the North Shore Anti-Defamation League’s Leadership Award.