World War II Part of Today; It Has Become a Compelling Interest of This 17-Year-Old from Jacksonville ... One of Many

By Strickland, Sandy | The Florida Times Union, August 5, 2012 | Go to article overview

World War II Part of Today; It Has Become a Compelling Interest of This 17-Year-Old from Jacksonville ... One of Many


Strickland, Sandy, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Sandy Strickland

Danielle Wirsansky locked herself in her bedroom and didn't come out for 24 hours. She didn't eat. She didn't sleep.

When she did unlock the door, the 18-year-old had written a World War II play titled "Son of a Gun."

Literally written under the gun, as in deadline, it was ready for entry in the District Thespian Festival. It took the Critics Choice Award.

The play and a companion documentary that she created about World War II veterans were prime reasons she was chosen as the Veterans of Foreign War's "Scout of the Year" for Florida. It's the first year Girl Scouts have been allowed to enter.

Wirsansky, a recent graduate of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, won the coveted Girl Scout Gold Award for her one-hour documentary, "Through Their Eyes," featuring the remembrances of six World War II veterans, including her grandfather.

"His stories were so interesting," she said of her grandfather, who died in December 2010.

Documenting their stories is important because more than 850 are dying every day, and "that really upsets me," Wirsansky said. She's showed the documentary at Hebrew schools, senior centers and the Jewish Community Alliance.

Wirsansky, who's had numerous writing credits, entered her project through Charles E. Bennett Post 1689 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on St. Augustine Road. From there, it went on to win at the district and state levels.

"She is a pretty remarkable young lady," said Patricia McQuaig, president of the post's Ladies Auxiliary. "I would think it uncommon for someone that young to be interested in World War II."

"It was really an amazing moment for me," said Wirsansky, who plans to join the post's auxiliary. "I was really proud and had worked so hard on this project."

For the documentary's play version, Wirsansky said she took an unusual approach. Those that know her said that's not unusual for her. Rather than the normal play format, the Mandarin resident said she combined the veterans' stories into that of a "uniquely ordinary soldier."

The title? Wirsansky, who studied theater and creative writing at Douglas Anderson, likes to incorporate songs into her plays. In this case, it's a phrase from "Mademoiselle from Armentires," in which a colonel is called a "son of a gun."

"History is one of my favorite subjects and, since I started this project, I've become enamored with World War II," she said.

It's a sharp contrast from her first play staged at Douglas Anderson in late May. That one featured blonde jokes. Yes, blonde jokes.

She wanted a funny, light and entertaining topic that didn't include the most common ones. Her favorite is the blonde who thinks her husband is cheating on her, despite his denials. But she comes home one day to find her suspicions confirmed. Upset, she puts a gun to her head.

"No, honey, don't do it. Don't shoot yourself," he says.

"Shut up," she responds. "You're next."

Already, the native of Petach Tikva, Israel, (she holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship) has packed a lifetime of experiences into her young life. She's a fencer, archer, writer, musician, dancer and singer. She designs earring accessories, such as neon-colored ear cuffs that look like cartilage piercings with iconic Pokemon and Pac-Man designs to make money for college.

ACADEMIC ACHIEVER

She's an academic achiever, voracious reader, Greyhounds as Pets Association volunteer and rescuer of four dogs, five rabbits and a fish. She's worked as a demonstration intern at the Museum of Science and History, done magazine editing and wrote a youth arts column for the Mandarin NewsLine.

Her life even began on a dramatic note. Her mother, Jackie Warshaw - who was born in New York, met her husband in Greece and settled with him in Israel - went into labor on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, where to be driving on Israeli streets is to risk the possibility of your car being attacked. …

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