To help mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Odessa College is producing “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 with matinees for Ector County Independent School District middle school students.
The Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 stagings will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Jack Rodgers Fine Arts Center on the OC campus, 201 W. University Blvd.
Matinees for middle school students are Jan. 19, Jan. 26 and Feb. 2 at Ector Middle School, but those are not open to the public, said Mark Kolokoff, head of Odessa College’s Theatre Performance Program. The performances are free.
Carl Berry Moore was hired to direct “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” but had an illness in the family, so Kolokoff is now producing and directing the show.
“I Never Saw Another Butterfly” is set in a concentration camp at Terezin in what is now the Czech Republic. “Of the vast majority of Czech Jews who were taken to Terezin (or Theresienstadt), 97,297 died among whom were 15,000 children. Only 132 of those children were known to have survived,” the Jewish Virtual Library website said.
“Holocaust remembrance day is Jan. 27, so we thought it would be a good idea to correspond the showing of this with that memorial or remembrance,” Kolokoff said.
Ector Middle School Director of Student Services Rebecca Osborne said about 4,000 students overall are expected to view the performances.
At Ector, Osborne said students are reading the script ahead of time. She added that it’s a 40-minute version of the play.
“Reading dramatic literature is part of the TEKS and so is poetry. The play is based, in part, on the poetry that the children that were living in a concentration camp wrote,” Osborne said.
TEKS stands for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and are the state’s educational standards in all subjects.
Kolokoff said he has had matinees at OC, but he has never toured for ECISD students.
“It’s gone well,” Kolokoff said of the production. “The challenge is that they haven’t rehearsed since last semester because they had break, so this is the first rehearsal today to get it going again. Since I haven’t been involved in the directing, I’m not super familiar with what they’ve done with it so I’ll see it for the first time today.”
Kolokoff said it’s important to perform “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” so people don’t forget history.
“I don’t believe any of us should ever lose sight of the fact that the holocaust took place …,” Kolokoff said. “… I think needs to be fresh all the time because if we ever forget that these events in history have taken place, then what’s going to stop us from repeating them.”
Bringing it to this age group also is relevant because Kolokoff said he’s not sure middle school students really have an understanding of the holocaust, especially that children died in it and suffered as much as the adults.
He added that the Nazis built Terezin as a facade so they could fool people into thinking they were treating the prisoners well.
Stage Manager Cristi Lloyd said the performances are a chance to present theater to people who wouldn’t always attend an OC show.
Although Christmas break occurred in the middle of rehearsals, Lloyd said the cast is “really strong.”
“We’ve worked together a lot, and so I think that together we’ll pull through. Even if it’s a little rough at first, we’ll be able to get it together for sure,” she said.
Caleb Jones, who plays a camp inmate and leader of the boys’ homes, said the play’s focus on youngsters instead of adults makes it relevant.
It will give students a chance to see how children their own age suffered and how they lost everything.
“I think it will be good for them to relate that to themselves,” Jones said.
Aaron Callaway, who plays a Nazi soldier, said he likes stories of holocaust survivors.
“I feel like they’re stories that need to be told, especially this one,” Callaway said.
Callaway added that he doesn’t think the holocaust is taught enough.
“People talk about it, but (the) consequences and the things that happen aren’t fully stressed enough. I think this is a good way to show them … just a little bit of what happened try to make them understand it more,” Callaway said.
Osborne said she talked to Kolokoff last May about how the school could work with OC to use the power of theater to benefit students in ECISD, and Ector in particular.
“Mark and I both realize that theater provides wonderful opportunities for cross-curricular instruction and ‘I Never Saw Another Butterfly’ is a vehicle for those opportunities,” Osborne said.
This play, she said relates to social studies and English especially.
“Anytime you’re studying dramatic literature and attending live theatrical performances that helps us to better understand our world and the people who live in it,” Osborne said.