"I am a Jew, and I survived Terezin — not alone and not afraid." With this final line, the audience burst into applause as the actors took their bows.
LAST SATURDAY the advanced drama students from Rachel Carson Middle School competed in the Virginia Theatre Association's (VTA) annual Young People's Theatre Festival in Lynchburg.
Competing with other middle schools from around the state, the Rachel Carson students earned a gold rating for their performance of "I Never Saw Another Butterfly," a one-act play by Celeste Raspanti. Set in the Terezin Concentration Camp outside Prague during World War II, the play is based on the true story of Jewish children who resided at the camp before being transported to Auschwitz. Much of the dialogue was taken from lines of poetry written by children at the camp. This was the only serious play in the festival. All the others were comedies. There was even a comedy about the tragedy of "Hamlet."
"I think doing a serious drama was better after all those comedies," said Holly Kelly, student director. "The audience took it much more seriously."
"I realized we would stand out to the judges, and they would remember us better," added Caroline McGrath, who played one of the children in the camp.
"My favorite part of VTA was performing in front of other middle schools, judges, and a real audience," said Morgan Harwood, who played another child.
MANY OF THE actors said they learned about more than acting in this play.
"I learned more about the Holocaust from the play," said Mary Davis who played the lead role of Raja. "I learned more about playing a very serious role and how to prepare. Emotionally, this is a very difficult subject, but I think that we have done a great job in portraying the characters."
Mary Davis did such a great job that she won a medal for outstanding actor, as did four other Rachel Carson students — Chris Peterson, Roxy Ghamgosarnia, Alla Herman and Ari Veach.
"I felt like I really had a purpose performing in this play," said Roxy Ghamgosarnia. "It had an important message, especially for middle-schoolers to learn. It was educational for me and hopefully for people who watched it.