BY MELISSA DASH
Local filmmaker Ann Krauss’ twin daughters are reaching adulthood this year — as is her long-in-the-works movie.
“Breast and Thighs” is a full-length romantic comedy set in South Philadelphia, and memories of her childhood are scattered throughout the script. Krauss began work on the film in 1999, the same year she brought home twins.
“The creative side had to come out of me in some way,” Krauss said. So, while they were napping, she started a screenplay.
Krauss, who lives in Havertown, has been involved in the arts for as long as she can remember, performing in musicals and plays from a young age. With her family from South Philadelphia and growing up in the suburbs, the city has served as an inspiration.
A favorite performance was playing Anne Frank’s mother for 16 seasons in the Anne Frank Theatre Project. The role particularly resonated because Krauss earned a degree from West Chester University in both political science and Holocaust studies.
She recalled a specific performance in North Philadelphia, saying she got “goosebumps re-creating it her in mind” because “some of these kids had never seen a live performance before and they were just mesmerized.”
In addition to that work, she has directed two theater programs at her former synagogue, Congregation Ohev Shalom in Wallingford. She has also participated in productions at current synagogue Adath Israel of the Main Line. Many of the congregants who have worked in the shows with Krauss are featured in “Breast and Thighs.”
While the arts is one of Krauss’ passions, she also emphasized the love she has for her job as a registered nurse in the operating room at Crozer-Keystone Surgery Center at Brinton Lake. She said the influences from her comedic acting career sometimes shine through in her work.
“I see things in a funny way,” Krauss said. “Comedy and people apprehensive about surgery make a very good combination. If I can make them laugh, then I can reduce their tension, which makes the surgery go smoother.”
As a mother of three, taking care of others comes naturally to Krauss.
“Being a Jewish mother is the most important thing in the world because you’re the heart of the family,” she said.
Both Judaism and the arts are threads that connect and strengthen her family. Her children are active in film and art, winning awards and praise for their respective works.
Krauss has stressed the importance of Jewish heritage, with her children taking the same Holocaust studies classes at West Chester University that she did.
“If you don’t share your history, you’re not going to have a history to share,” said Krauss, “and as a mother, you know you’ve done a good job when your children are out there telling people things they have learned about their history.”
Krauss wakes every Friday at 4 a.m. to make challah dough before going into work, as she shares in her “PBS American Portrait” special, “The tradition I carry on is … ” Her family celebrates Shabbat every week.
Krauss brought her faith into the writing, producing, directing and acting in “Breast and Thighs.”
“I see everything through a Jewish lens. The film is not about Jewish people, but there are Jewish references all over it,” she said.
Initially, Krauss was going to remove items such as mezuzahs and tzedakah boxes from the film. Upon reconsideration, she kept those symbols, acting almost as a “‘Where’s Waldo?’ for the Jewish people,” she said.
Krauss anticipates completing the film by August, saying it was delayed due to COVID-19. She’s hoping to have it screened at a film festival.
Due to the pandemic, the movie’s ending was changed to a song called “Let’s All Be Friends.” The song encompasses the problems of the main characters, but has a wider meaning referencing inclusivity and diversity. In the final scene, there will be people with masks and pandemic references.
Krauss offered advice for any fledgling filmmaker: “Get your phone, shoot your story, write your story and include people. It’s so freeing.”