Flying in the darkness

“We were all affected; we all lost roots or branches of our family trees. Nobody came out of that untouched. But out of the ashes of the Holocaust, we have our state."

By ARIEL DOMINIQUE HENDELMAN
April 4, 2018 17:27
Child actors in J-Town Playhouse’s ‘I Never Saw Another Butterfly’

Child actors in J-Town Playhouse’s ‘I Never Saw Another Butterfly’. (photo credit: ITA ARBIT)

 
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When it came time to decide which show J-Town Playhouse would offer this year at the AACI Theater for Holocaust Remembrance day, producer Aviella Trapido and the other members of the J-Town Playhouse team wanted to choose something that had not been done many times over, and in addition, something that presented stories from the Holocaust in a new way. “As producers, we have to come up with something that hasn’t been done over and over like Anne Frank,” Trapido says. “When you’re dealing with the Holocaust, all of the subject matter is very depressing. Last year, we did Hanna Szenes, which was very well received. It was a completely fresh take and a different angle on the Holocaust. So this year, we wanted to go back to our roots, but also with a fresh take. We really liked the concept of bringing light in a time of darkness. That’s what our nation is all about: resiliency. Despite the darkness, we are here today. Malka Abrams is such a fine director that she has really created a wonderful atmosphere and learning experience for everyone involved with this play.”

The play I Never Saw Another Butterfly is named after the title of a poem written by Pavel Friedman, one of the children of the Terezin ghetto, or Theresienstadt, as it was known in German. Friedman was later killed in Auschwitz. Terezin was essentially the “model” camp that the Nazis used as propaganda in World War II to try to prove to the rest of the world that the Jews were being treated relatively humanely. It was where the artists, scholars, musicians and professionals were brought. All of the children who were brought there were encouraged to express themselves creatively by their teacher, Freidel. Freidel encouraged them to write and draw, and then she buried all of the artwork and poetry to save it from being destroyed by the Nazis. At the end of the war, much of it was recovered. One of these recovered poems was “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.” The poem became a symbol of hope prevailing even in the darkest of times and inspired many plays, music and pieces of art. It is also the title of a collection of works by the children of Terezin that was published by Hana Volavkova in 1994.

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