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Protective Custody


Written by Charles LaBorde

Based on the memoir by Susan Cernyak-Spatz


Directed for the stage by Dennis Delamar

Starring Leslie Giles and Paula Baldwin

Filmed by Simplistic Phobia

A harrowing true story of strength and survival


Protective Custody PRISONER 34042 is a raw new play, written by Charles LaBorde and based on the memoir of well-known Charlotte Holocaust survivor Dr. Susan Cernyak-Spatz.


Protective Custody PRISONER 34042 brings the audience on Susan’s personal experiences as a young woman in Europe during the rise of Nazism and her riveting survival of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps. A universal story of survival and the strength of the human spirit in the most extreme circumstances, is told beautifully by a two-person cast as they bring Susan’s story to life and reflect on the current rise of antisemitism.


The world premiere of Protective Custody PRISONER 34042 was produced by Three Bone Theatre in November 2019 under the direction of famed Charlotte director Dennis Delamar. The sold-out run was attended by Susan and her family.


The first public reading of the script was presented on December 13, 2018 at the second anniversary celebration of the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice. The evening celebrated all of our Charlotte community’s more than three dozen Holocaust survivors and the successes of the Greenspon Center’s first two years.

Three Bone Theatre is actively pursuing options to continue producing this important piece of theatre. If you would like to support this effort, please consider making a donation to this project. If you, or your organization, are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact us at

This project was supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Read Susan's Story

Meet the Artists

Make a Donation to the project

Community Partner

Support the Production

The world premiere production of Protective Custody PRISONER 34042 is a significant undertaking. Our team of professional artists are committing over a year to design, rehearsals and preparations to bring this production to the stage in November 2019.


We need your support to help make this project a reality.


Donations of any size are appreciated. Any funds donated to this project will be used exclusively for the development and production of Protective Custody PRISONER 34042 and are tax-deductible up to the limits allowed by law.


In addition to individual donations, we have a variety of sponsorship packages available for companies, organizations or individuals who are interested in making a significant investment in this project.


Please visit the donation page at the link below to learn more. If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact us at

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About Dr. Susan Cernyak-Spatz

Dr. Cernyak-Spatz lived in Berlin from 1929-1936, attending grade school until age 10 and then attending Lyceum (higher education girls’ school). In 1936 her parents moved to Vienna where the family business had a branch. Hitler’s occupation of Austria in March, 1938 put an end to her existence as a carefree adolescent by forcing her and her family to become refugees in Prague, Czechoslovakia, leaving all their possessions behind in Vienna. Her father managed to leave Czechoslovakia on August 31, 1939 for Brussels, via Poland where he was able to outrun the German invasion. She and her mother were trapped and eventually, in May, 1942 deported to Theresienstadt. Upon her arrival there, her mother was selected for a further destination “East” which, although she did not know it, meant certain death.

Cernyak-Spatz stayed in Theresienstadt until January, 1943 when she was sent on transport “East” which by that time meant Auschwitz. Due to the fact that Auschwitz-Birkenau was a labor-cum-extermination camp, she was selected for “outside work” and managed to survive the first critical two months in which prisoners in Birkenau either survived typhus and the other many diseases running rampant in the camp or died. In the course of the two years in which she was in the camp, she learned the rules of survival which included an “inside job” to avoid the daily selections, marching to and from backbreaking outside work, or the only alternative, going into the “gas.”

Cernyak-Spatz managed to find connections, a job and relative security within the administrative hierarchy of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In January, 1945 she worked in the so-called “Kanada-Kommando” where the transports’ personal property were sorted and sent to Germany. Auschwitz-Birkenau was evacuated, ahead of the advance of the Russian front, in January, 1945. The prisoners were sent on the “Deathmarch” which only a small number survived.

Cernyak-Spatz and her fellow workers from the Kanada Kommando were sent to KZ Ravensbrueck, the largest women’s concentration camp in the Reich. There they stayed until the end of April, 1945, at which time they were again deported, this time to the West to escape the Russian advance.


Liberation occurred in a small village in northern Germany, near Schwerin by a battalion of the eighty-second Airborne which had just occupied the little village. After the Liberation, she worked for the American Counter Intelligence Corps as an interpreter, and then for the British Military Government, also as an interpreter. She was reunited with her father in August, 1945 in Brussels. She married an American GI and came to America on July 4, 1946. She has three children and continues being active in the field of Holocaust studies which she has also presented in Germany in yearly lectures for over a decade.

About Susan
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This project was supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Our Community Partner-
The Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice

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Greenspon Logo 1.jpg

History shows that courage in the face of darkness saves lives and shifts outcomes. Courage rooted in hope.

In every instance where people have had to overcome unspeakable acts of violence, discrimination, and persecution, hope has lead the way. Hope for peace, for love, and for equality.

The Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice exists to give voice to the voiceless, and form community partnerships to create positive change. They draw on history to guide their way as they advocate for those who need a spark of hope to lead them out of despair.


The Stan Greenspon Center has four branches of focus. Click each to learn more:

Social Justice & Advocacy

Holocaust & Human Rights Education

Jewish Life & Multicultural Connection

Jewish Studies

Community Partner

Meet The Creative Team

Charles LaBorde


Charles LaBorde has been an actor, director, designer, and playwright, as well as an arts educator and administrator throughout his lifetime. He holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in theatre and doctoral certification in educational administration from the University of North Carolina. He was the founder of the high school at Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, where he served as principal for 15 years until his retirement in 2008. He has received 11 regional and state directing awards, a national directing award from the National Youth Theatre, and numerous awards for scenic, costume, lighting, and sound design from the North Carolina Theatre Conference. As a playwright he has received two national and four regional playwriting awards and has had his play, Memorial, performed in New York, across the nation, and in Europe. That play remains in print more than twenty-five years after its initial publication. His most recent plays are Affinity—about Frank Lloyd Wright and the murders at Taliesen—and Unbound—about the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, NC. In 2010 he was named both Best Actor in a Drama and Theatre Person of the Year by Creative Loafing and was awarded the Marian Smith Lifetime Career Achievement Award by NCTC. He was also honored by having the black box theatre at Northwest School of the Arts renamed the Charles LaBorde Theatre. He is a full member of The Dramatists Guild, Inc.—the professional theatre union of playwrights, composers, and lyricists.

Dennis Delamar


The award winning Charlotte actor, director and retired NC public school teacher is a personal friend of Susan CernyakSpatz since falling for her respectfully and lovingly at the theatre in the 1980’s, a place they both share as a source of joy, inspiration and truth. Having directed the Pulitzer and Tony winning one person, German-set drama I Am My Own Wife for Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, Dennis envisioned Susan’s incredible story as a stage play with a similar far reaching significant impact. With Jackie Fishman’s encouragement, the collaboration began with his longtime friend, kindred thespian and fellow educator Charles LaBorde adapting Susan’s already published memoir into a two person script. From there, development of the piece continues with two of Charlotte’s finest actresses, Three Bone Theatre and many other encouraging supporters and backers. “Such a privilege to be here to help tell Susan’s vital story of survival and to keep the sobering truth alive for generations to come. Never again.”

Leslie Giles

Actress- Susan

Leslie cannot express what an honor it is to take on such a special project! This Anderson SC native and Winthrop University Alum has called Charlotte her home since 2006. She was last seen with Three Bone Theatre last season in APPROPRIATE (Rachael). You may also recognize her from her 10+ years of touring with Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s Resident Touring Company (formally the Tarradiddle Players), or from the ambitious two person THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE (Lucy/White Witch) and world premiere of LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET (Butterfly Lady). Currently she is rehearsing with Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte for SILENCE: THE MUSICAL! (opens Aug 15!), and can be found this December singing for her 3rd year in a row at Carowinds Winterfest in SOUNDS OF THE NATIVITY (D&G Entertainment). Proudly represented by JTA. When not performing she loves getting to hang out with her longtime boyfriend Michael, and their two adorable cats Penny & Ziggy!

Paula Baldwin

Actress- The Dresser

Paula Baldwin most recently appeared as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma! with CPCC Summer Theatre where she also directed Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. A familiar face to Charlotte audiences, some of her favorite productions include The Grapes of Wrath, Sister Act, The Actress, August: Osage County, Who’s Afraid Virginia Woolf? A Streetcar Named Desire, Foxfire, Barefoot in the Park and Angels in America. Paula began her teaching career with CMS following sixteen years as a professional actor and currently heads the theatre arts program at Independence High School. She holds an MFA in Acting/Directing from UNC-Greensboro and a BA in Theatre from Catawba College.

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