Shelley Mitchell and Patty Duke
2015 Interview with Three Weeks Magazine
When I was eight years old I saw a play on Broadway called The Miracle Worker. It was based on the true story of Helen Keller and starred Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft (who both went on to win Oscars for their performances in the film version). This play, about teaching a blind and deaf girl to comprehend language and speak with her hands, changed my life forever and introduced me to the wonders of dramatic art.
As soon as I could I left my home town of Detroit, Michigan and continued pursuing my passion for drama at Emerson College in Boston, and then at Circle in the Square Theater School in NYC. This lead me to study with renowned acting coach and Oscar nominated actor, Lee Strasberg . To my young mind, his emphasis on finding one's authentic voice, living fully in the present moment and and throwing off the shackles of people pleasing set the dials for a lifelong interest in what lies under the surface of life.
My burgeoning existential crisis took me down parallel paths. -I became equally passionate about the philosophies of Ram Dass and Alan Watts.
Gitta Mallasz's book, Talking with Angels, came into my life a few years later when it was first published in 1982. Its message about authenticity, independent thinking and full hearted living resonated deeply; it was the essence of the messages I had been hearing over and over again in my studies of dramatic art and esoteric studies, yet there was now a third element to be considered that really threw me for a loop: the miraculous.
It took me almost 20 years to get back to acting. I begin a writing a treatment of Talking with Angels in 1999. In 2000, I experimented with a 9 character theatrical adaptation for the San Francisco Fringe Festival. It was selected as best of show. Later that year I went to Switzerland and met with the book's publisher, Robert Hinshaw. He showed me videos he'd made of Gitta speaking in English (her fifth language) about her experience and encouraged me to continue trying to adapt it into a stage version. Based on the recognition we got in San Francisco, and with fresh images of Gitta in my mind, I streamlined Talking with Angels into a less unwieldy solo production. --It premiered at the Milagro Theater in NYC on September 19th, 2001. Barbara Valocore, of the Lifebridge Foundation, offered us funding to further develop the solo show. To date, I've performed it over 400 times at salons and festivals throughout the USA and Europe; most recently at the 2015 Edinburgh Festival and at St. John's Cathedral in Los Angeles, sponsored by the Guibord Center. The next production of Talking with Angels will be at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, June 3-18.
I currently live in Los Angeles. More details about my professional life as a performer, acting coach and presentation coach can be found at:
The metaphysical experience they shared defined Gitta's later life. Once she published Talking with Angels she continued sharing her experience with others who were interested in metaphysics and transcendence. Throughout the 1980s she lectured in many cities in Europe and had a strong impact on thousands of people.
It was very important to Gitta that Talking with Angels not become "yet another animal in the New Age zoo", and that people seeking truth within its message cherish and preserve their own independent voice and will. More details about Gitta Mallasz and Hanna Dallos and examples of their art work can be found here.
In her mid-twenties she got interested in art again and contacted her old friend, Hanna Dallos, in an effort to reconnect to her creativity. They eventually set up a successful graphic design studio. They had a shared interest in philosophy and human potential, and during their late twenties and early thirties spent much of their free time exploring the psychology of eastern philosophies and sacred texts.
Schindler's List meets
My Dinner with Andre
The play begins in London, 1991, a year before Gitta Mallasz died. She is about to give her last talk to a group of about 200 people who've come to hear her describe in detail the experience she and her friends had communicating with what appeared to them at the time as angels. The 90 minute play is based on the original transcripts and Gitta's description of the circumstances they were in during the Nazi occupation of Hungary.
Gitta Mallasz was born into a military family in Austria in 1907. She moved to Hungary when she was 15 years old and met Hanna Dallos when they were students together in high school . They lost track of each other after graduation. Gitta became a long distance swimming champion and enjoyed the perks of being a famous athlete in Hungary.
Click here or on the image if you would like to purchase the book.
In the genre of Holocaust memoir, TWA is on a par with MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Victor Frankl and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK.
The story unfolds around Gitta Mallasz's courageous attempt to save her three Jewish friends and over 100 women and children from deportation. As commander in charge of a garment factory making military uniforms, she was successful in saving everyone, except her friends.
Gitta Mallasz survived the war and in 1960 smuggled their precious diaries into France. The dialogues were first published in 1976 as Dialogue avec L’Ange and immediately became a bestseller, but the the book in its original language (Az Angyal Vàlaszol) was banned by the Communist régime in Hungary until 1991.
In recognition of Gitta Mallasz's courageous acts, Yad Vashem museum in Israel posthumously honored her in 2012 as Righteous Among Nations.
Olympic Athlete, Graphic Artist
"The portrait of Mallasz is a tour de force!" SAN FRANCISCO WEEKLY
"She's the real deal!" SEAN PENN
"Mitchell's consummate skill as a performer illuminates this thoughtful combination of human bravery and the divine."
IRISH THEATRE MAGAZINE