OLEAN, NY – Audiences can witness how hope and resilience emerged from tragedy and despair when the Olean Theatre Workshop stages “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” from Oct. 12 to 15.
The play is based on a book of art and poetry written by children who lived in the Jewish ghetto/concentration camp of Terezin in German-occupied Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust.
Director Lesley Patrone said that helping the young cast relate to their characters has been a key component in the rehearsal process.
“It is a show that takes some maturity, some understanding, some empathy, and obviously some reaching beyond their own real experiences,” Patrone explained. “The horrors of the Holocaust are things that they wouldn’t even come close to knowing. The first challenge was to introduce them with videos and things to some of the stuff they would see.”
According to the OTW website: “Over 15,000 Jewish children passed through Terezin, and only about a hundred were still alive when Terezin was liberated at the end of the war. One of the survivors, Raja, having lived through it all, teaching the children when there was nothing to teach with, helping to give them hope when there was little enough reason for hope, creating a little world of laughter, of flowers and butterflies behind the barbed wire, tells the true story of the children.”
Olean High School senior Julia Rakus, who has been with OTW since 2006, has been cast as Raja. She said that although the play involves a great deal of sadness, the message is ultimately one of hope.
“There were bonds and relationships being formed,” Rakus said. “They could overcome such awful things when they were happening. It’s uplifting to see that these kids could do this -- so pretty much anything you’re going through, you can do it too.”
Ethan Dalton, an Olean High School junior who will play Pavel, explained why he thinks this show is so valuable.
“One of my favorite aspects is the historical accuracy,” Dalton said. “It was written after somebody and in honor of somebody. I think it does a really good job at informing people and taking people back to what happened. Hopefully people will take a step back and look at the big picture, you know, that people will understand what happens outside their sphere of influence.”
The Olean High School film class will create a video that will play in the beginning of the performance. Patrone said that this partnership has helped to further OTW’s mission.
“One of our missions is to do family theater, and we also have an emphasis on working with kids and generally, during the school year, what we try to do is connect with the Olean City School District and enlarge the curriculum,” Patrone explained.
Audiences will also have the opportunity to see some of the art work that the children of the Terezin camp produced.
“The Bethany Lutheran Church gave us money to have some reproductions of the actual artwork of the children from the concentration camp and so that will be on display during the performance,” Patrone explained.
Performances for "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12-14 and at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 15 in the theater at 702 Washington St. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by phone at 716-373-7469 or on the OTW website.