The Bear Stage Players are not afraid of a challenge, evident in their choice of one-act play for the University Interscholastic League competition in March.

“I never saw another butterfly” is a tale of Raja, a young Jewish girl during World War II, forced to live in the ghetto in Terezin, a Nazi concentration camp, torn from her family. Attending school in secret, always in fear of being sent to Auschwitz, Raja watches her friends leave one-by-one, and never come back.

That is pretty heavy subject matter for modern 17-  and 18-year-olds that have never experienced that situation.

To help them understand and give the students something to draw from, theater arts teacher, Melissa Johnson brought the entire production class to Houston recently to visit the Holocaust Museum. They were able to speak to an actual survivor of the Holocaust.

“It was really, really hard to go there,” said Jerica Johnson, president of the Thespian Society at Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School. Johnson plays the teacher, Irena, in the play. “She’s very strong, very motherly and protective.”

The students will perform their one-act selection for the public next week at 6:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. Admission is $2; funds will go to the Holocaust Museum in Houston.

The trip to Houston, “… changed my point of view,” said Johnson.

“Before, I knew it was sad, but it didn’t upset me. Those people went through hell, for no reason. I was overwhelmed.”

The old woman encouraged the kids to get an education. “They can strip you naked, take away your family, but they can’t take away what’s in your mind,” she told them. They were amazed at the woman’s spirit and the fact that she wasn’t bitter about her experience.

Marissa Forsyth, who plays Raja, was unable to go on the Houston trip, because she had pneumonia, but said the others told her about the survivor they met. “She was old, but seemed so young,” she said.

“It’s really been an inspiration.” Forsyth knew which role she wanted to play after reading the script. “It was a big competition,” she said.

Jake Spurgeon, playing Honze, said the trip helped him get inside the character, and learn what a ghetto was. He was amazed how even though everything had been taken from them, they still had, “ … friendship and hope.”

“This is the biggest role I’ve ever received,” he said. Spurgeon is a senior and hopes to continue his acting career. “I want to work in film,” he said. “I would love to be a director or be in a movie,” he said.

Jimmy Womack agrees with that, “I’ve always acted since I was really little,” he said. “I knew in the eighth or ninth grade that I wanted to be a director.”

Be prepared for a very somber performance that may get to you. 

It got to me in a Stephen Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” type of moment, when some of the actors stood up silently as their name was called, then quietly walked off the stage as their age and date of death was read. 

It has the same effect as the end of Spielberg’s saga, when descendents of survivors walk up and add rocks to a growing pile.

And if the printed program in your hand gets wet, it may just be a tear.

For more information, or reservations, call the LC-M theater department at 886-5821, ext. 1620.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.