Chase Gregory and Ted Lesley | Courtesy of Bunbury Theatre Co.
Chase Gregory and Ted Lesley | Courtesy of Bunbury Theatre Co.

On April 9, 1945, famous anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at the Flossenburg concentration camp, just two weeks before the Allied forces liberated it. Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and one of the founding members of the Confessing Church. His book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” became a modern classic on the topic of Christianity’s role in the secular world.

Seventy years to the day after his untimely death, the Bunbury Theatre Company is opening “Bonhoeffer — The Last Encounter,” an original production penned by local playwright and director Juergen K. Tossmann. The story begins in 1943 when Bonhoeffer was first imprisoned at Tegel in Berlin, and it explores a relationship he struck up with a prison guard who was willing to help him escape.

Tossmann, who was born in Germany, tells Insider he’s always wanted to write a play set during World War II after hearing of the many stories from his parents, who lived through the war.

“Having heard war stories my whole life, I always wanted to write a play about their experience,” he says. “It just so happened that I had been working on a skeleton script when I attended a film about Bonhoeffer. I knew after the showing that Bonhoeffer had to be in this play. I didn’t realize until much later that he would actually become the central figure.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tossmann says it took him 20 years to write the play, because it was something he’d pick up only when he had the time. His biggest challenge was condensing Bonhoeffer’s life into a two-hour play.

“I knew I couldn’t possibly include all of the fascinating aspects of his life and writings, so I pared it down as far as I could and tried to present Bonhoeffer as a human being of which we could all relate,” he says.

He hopes his play sheds light on Bonhoeffer’s plight and opens people’s eyes to the repercussions of staying silent in the face of evil. Tossmann hopes the audience leaves with the realization that “we all have to make certain choices when faced with outrageous and unbearable circumstances,” he says. “Will we stay true to our convictions, or will we be controlled by forces that wish to dominate and destroy us?”

“Bonhoeffer — The Last Encounter” runs April 9-26 at the Henry Clay Theatre on the corner of Third and Chestnut. Tickets are $22 ($19 seniors, $10 students). For tickets and more info, click here or call 585-5306.

Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."