It’s a tale of hope. And a tale of despair. It’s a tale of children learning how to survive. And a tale of children who didn’t.
When the curtain goes up Nov. 21-23 on Lukancic Middle School’s production of “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” (Finding Hope Through Children’s Eyes), it will be the culmination of an intense “collaborative effort” never before seen on a Valley View School District 365U stage.
Based on a book by Celeste Raspanti, the “multi-media story arc” focuses on the children of the Holocaust and includes a one-act depiction of one moment in time at the Terezin, Czecholsovakia concentration camp. Terezin was used by Nazis to imprison culturally important people and their children. Despite horrible conditions in most areas of the camp (only 100 of the15,000 children who went through the camp survived), Germany used better areas of the camp to fool invited media members into believing conditions were excellent.
The Lukancic production begins with a series of short readings, poetry, music and a video from an actual survivor from Terezin. And it ends with several more readings and a finale that, according to co-directors Jessica Wisniewski and Dave Zucker, will be “created by the kids.”
“Our characters in the vignettes are real people,” Zucker said. “Then you meet specific characters in the play itself, spending time with them in this one moment.”
“It took us quite a while to put this together,” Wisniewski said, pointing out she and Zucker started planning for the production last summer. “But it has really come together quite naturally. We’re excited.”
“What happened at Terezin is tragic and, in one sense, our kids are really struggling with that,” Zucker added. “But they understand the importance of telling this story.”
“These musicians and writers and teachers at Terezin urged these children to put their feelings into poetry and drawings. They survived by expressing themselves,” said Wisniewski. “We felt it was important for theaudience, the cast, the crew to understand the scope of the experience through children’s eyes so we took the play and put it in the middle of readings that cover this time period.”
Both Zucker and Wisniewski are amazed at how the cast and crew have tackled their roles during rehearsal thus far.
“One of our favorite things through all this has been sharing our vision with the kids and turning them loose,” Zucker said, citing the technical crew in particular “for creating it better than I can dream it up.”
In fact, word is members of the cast have been doing some research onthe people who wrote some of the poems from the production helping them to, as Wisniewski put it, “feel for the people who actually experienced this.”
“This is very serious material but we’re trying to do it in such a way that it’s a tale of hope,” Wisniewski added. “You’re supposed to have fun with drama but at the same time, the kids know this is not a comedy. It’s something they have taken very seriously.”
The curtain goes up at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 21-23 in the Lukancic auditorium, 725 Normantown Road in Romeoville. Tickets will be available atthe door.