The Importance of Being Otto

by RW Pickel

When Hendersonville businessman Tom Hicks first began to notice how his partner enjoyed looking out the windows of hotels on their many business trips together, he was curious about this obsession. One day, his partner Peter “Otto” Abeles would tell him his story. And that he did. The result was Otto, the Boy at the Window, a book they co-authored and published in 2001. Since then, this story has taken on a life of its own.

In 2005, while performing in the stage play Scrooge, Tom met Mt. Juliet playwright Bill Dorian, who was the narrator in the production. For some time Hicks and Abeles had been discussing the possibility of having Pete’s story developed into a stage play. This chance meeting of Hicks and Dorian resulted in the stage version of Abeles’ story. It debuted in Nashville in 2007 with excellent reviews and was named “Best Original Holocaust Drama” by Martin Brady of the Nashville Scene. This May and June, Otto Productions will once again bring this story to life with shows in Mt. Juliet and Hendersonville.

Abeles was born in the early 30’s in Vienna, Austria and was raised by an emotionally abusive mother and a father who took no real interest in him or his older brother, Heinz Robert. The family lived in an upper middle class Jewish neighborhood with all the modern comforts, including a chauffeur and a maid. The year prior to the Anschluss his father had even been named the “Businessman of the Year” for the city of Vienna. But, on March 12, 1938, the Abeles’ world and that of all Jewish families in Austria was about to suddenly change for the worse. After nearly losing everything, including their lives, Peter’s father was able to make contact with two American Abeles’ families who would ultimately sponsor them and bring them to Chicago.

In addition to the stage play, William Dorian has also written a screen play that is attracting a number of well known actors and directors and is slated to begin production in the late fall or early spring of next year.

The stage production will run for two weekends (May 15-17 & 22-24) at Encore Theatre in Mt. Juliet and one weekend (June 5-7) at Steeple Players Theatre in Hendersonville. For interested actors, the auditions will be held on March 8th from 2-4 p.m. and March 9th from 7-9 p.m. at Encore Theatre Company located at 14905-A Lebanon Rd. in Mt. Juliet and again on March 15th from 2-4 p.m. and March 16th from 7-9 p.m. at Northeast Church in Hendersonville located at 100 God Why Court. Lead roles are available for 1 man (35-50), 1 woman (35-50), two boys (6-12), 1 woman aged 50-70, and two men (18-30). Additional roles are available for 8-10 men of all ages, 1-2 women (20-30), and 1 woman of any age. Questions concerning the auditions may be directed to Bill Dorian at William.Dorian@comcast.net or Rodney Pickel at Pickelface@comcast.net.

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