Spent a wonderful weekend producing Irena's Vow to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was very exciting to work with a committed and talented group of actors who put their heart and souls into telling a story of good in the face of unfathomable evil. Talkbacks after each performance allowed community members to share their thoughts and feelings. As with discussions after prior year's Holocaust Remembrance readings, at some point the discussion came around to human nature and man's propensity for both good and evil towards their fellow man. Without fail someone reminds us that while we say "Never Again" each year, ridiculous and wasteful violence and hatred still rears its ugly head again and again in this world. Monday's attacks in Boston quickly burst the bubble of good feelings presented over the weekend by our Lakes Region community's coming together to share discussion on the Holocaust and reassert desires to do good and fight evil.
Looking out at our audiences at the three performances I noticed a certain, "mature" demographic in attendance. An audience filled with tolerant people who have seen and heard too many examples of violence over their lives and who are sick and tired of it. But there were few teens and pre-teens attending. For that matter, there were few people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. As far as I can tell, very few of these acts of violence are perpetrated by senior citizens — so how do we get the younger demographic to face these issues if we don't want to talk about it with them? I'm thankful to be able to teach my kids about hatred and violence through our theatrical productions. I'm thankful that we create an environment where my 12-year-old is comfortable to ask questions in front of her community to try to make sense of the tragedies. It saddens me that so many other parents in our community don't take advantage of opportunities to share a message of tolerance and compassion with their own children.
In the Holocaust discussions we talk a lot about trying to understand how the Germans could go along with the exterminations of Jews and not do something to stop it. We talk about how the Nazis were able to turn Jews into "others" and thus it somehow became okay to treat them as less than human. Just like slave owners turned Africans into "others" and explorers turned Native Americans into "others", and on and on. Humans do a great job of organizing themselves into groups — by religion, ethnicity, nationality, towns, sports teams. And these affiliations serve a purpose to bring people together — but why do they also have to drive wedges between "others" and serve as an excuse to commit violence against other humans?
I'm thankful that along with laughs and thrills, the Playhouse is able to provide a place for its community to come together to cry and think about the world in which we live, through the annual Holocaust Staged Readings, plays like The Diary of Anne Frank, The Laramie Project, To Kill a Mockingbird, Big River, Two Rooms and more. I know being around tolerant people and being presented with theatrical productions that promote kindness and understanding by exposing hatred of "others" simply for their "otherness" has benefited my family and me. As the Playhouse continues to grow and continues to engage the community I hope your family can benefit too. Irena's Vow shared the story of a woman, Irena Gut Opdyke who performed acts of goodness in the face of evil. She didn't see Jews as "others" but as humans, and the ones she saved became her friends. It was a story worth telling, and I'm proud we did.
The Winnipesaukee Playhouse