Nazi guards set the tone for the performance when they abruptly ordered members of the incoming audience to “sit as directed” in the theater in the round. The High School Drama Department’s portrayal of a Jewish family in Germany during WWII caused real tears to brim in the audience while role-players bravely overcame their own emotions to proclaim the story.
The train came with children, families were separated, most were taken away with false promises. But the evidence was there. As Raja (JJ Little) pointed out to Irena (Julie Little), “He [father] didn’t come back for his shoes!”
It was the story of 15,000 children who passed through Terezin, a ghetto where Jewish families were forced to live. While there, they secretly established a school where they wrote poems and drew pictures about their experiences. The art and poetry was buried underground for safety.
When the war ended, only 100 children survived. The artwork was retrieved and a book entitled “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” was published. Later, Celeste Raspanti wrote the play based on the images and poems published in the book. Each character in this play was once a real person. Many of the lines in the play are the actual words of the individuals being represented.
As director Jana Timpson explained, “My hope is that humanity’s ability to empathize has progressed since the Holocaust. However, I knew that this production needed to be heard and that the students of Morgan High, deserved to tell it. This story is not an easy one, but it is vitally important.
“As the cast and crew delved into the world of Terezin, I have witnessed so much beauty, growth, and courage. Everyone involved has risen to the challenge of representing the complexities of this part of history. I am humbled to be a part of it.”
Throughout the play a positive thread was woven, that “Alone we are helpless; together we are not afraid.” The play was performed at Morgan high school May 3 through 7, 2018.