Ukrainian refugee’s story comes to life in new Tallahassee musical ‘Teodora’

The story of a Ukrainian refugee fleeing tyranny will take center stage this weekend at Godby High School.
Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 3:59 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The story of a Ukrainian refugee fleeing tyranny will take center stage this weekend at Godby High School.

‘Teodora’ isn’t a tale from the past year, but instead from 75 years ago. Created by a Tallahassee college professor, the play debuts Friday night.

WCTV got an exclusive look at a recent dress rehearsal as the crew worked to put the finishing touches on the 60-minute play.

The play is based on a memoir by Teodora Verbitskaya, a woman who survived both Stalin’s state-sponsored famine in Ukraine and Hitler’s Holocaust several years later.

Teodora’s daughter, Nadia, painted incredible works depicting those trying times. Discovered at a Madison County yard sale decades ago, the collection now serves as the backbone of the Two Regimes project, which is currently on display at Tallahassee Community College.

TCC professor Diane Dupuy Whitney wrote the play after reading Teodora’s memoir and studying the art.

“I simply put myself there and created songs I would sing if I were Teodora,” she said.

The nine-song production uses a simple yet immersive method to convey powerful themes of love, anger, and anguish.

And it’s local musician Debra Brigman who ties it all together. She’s in the titular role.

“It hits your soul; it hits your heart,” she said.

Channeling Teodora’s spirit required digging deep and bringing serious emotional chops.

“This was a woman who had a fierce amount of power and determination. She wanted to live,” she said.

During the dress rehearsal, the crew was hard at work perfecting massive projections that will light up each side of the stage at Godby. Nadia’s artwork is woven into the musical, along with dancers to accent key moments.

Jaden Stevens is a 10th grader at Godby. She said it was an honor to be a part of the journey.

“As the show progressed I slowly learned more and more about what it was, and it was shocking to learn about the horrible things they went through, but also some of the good things they had along the way,” she said.

Proceeds from the play head in part to Godby’s theater program. Donations will also be collected for His Kids Too, which has done work in the local area to house current Ukrainian refugees.

Learn more about ticket information here.