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posted: 2/5/2010 12:01 AM

Student actors tackle Holocaust for spring drama

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  • Raja, played by senior Hannah Bishop, looks to her father, senior Tyler Spitz, for comfort while they hear war planes flying overhead in Batavia High School's production of "I Never Saw Another Butterfly."

      Raja, played by senior Hannah Bishop, looks to her father, senior Tyler Spitz, for comfort while they hear war planes flying overhead in Batavia High School's production of "I Never Saw Another Butterfly."
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer


This weekend, Batavia High School's theater group presents the drama "I Never Saw Another Butterfly."

The play is a recollection of the experiences of Raja Englanderova, a young girl who arrives at Terezin, a former military garrison in Prague that is turned into a Jewish camp during World War II.

Between 1942 and 1945, more than 15,000 Jewish children passed through the camp. It later became a station, a stopping place, for the trains that transported hundreds of thousands to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

In the midst of the horror was one selfless woman who helped the children of Terezin by setting up a school, encouraging the children to sing songs and paint pictures, to read and to write. Irena Synkova's effort brought hope where there was none and a freedom from the fear of remembering a life left behind.

"I chose this play because it isn't just about the Holocaust," said director Page McCloud. "It really is a very important story about family, hope and love."

This a very challenging piece of work, but the Batavia theater group has some very accomplished actors who will be able to perform the play with the sensitivity and emotion that is required.

"My last year at the high school, I had a group of very talented young women who were in the freshman class," said McCloud. "I really thought that these girls would be able to handle a play of this magnitude."

According to McCloud, the cast is doing a fine job with the interpretation of the material.

"There is one point in the play where the actors read the poetry and show the paintings that the children of Terezin created," he said. "It's a very emotional moment."

If you read this column on a regular basis, you know that I am a big proponent of families taking advantage of all that the BHS theater department has to offer. It is an inexpensive way to expose your children to quality theater for a very inexpensive price.

This play, because of the subject matter, is suitable for middle school and older. It is a great opportunity to see a play together as family and use the drama as a talking point about a very difficult time in history.

McCloud also teaches his students about the requirements of a play from the technical aspect. Each cast member must spend a certain amount of time painting or building the set, if he or she wants to go on stage opening night.

"This is a multilevel set, so the cast learned how to build platforms." added McCloud.

"I never Saw Another Butterfly" opens at 7:30 p.m. today, Feb. 5, in the Batavia High School cafeteria. The play will also be performed Saturday, Feb. 6, at the same time. Pre-auditorium pricing is available with all tickets selling for $6. Call the ticket hotline at (630) 937-8600, ext. 7949, to reserve tickets or visit

Anniversaries worth noting: Callie Close called to let me know about the 20th anniversary of Elderday. Close sits on the board of the Elderday Center and is a strong supporter of their programming.

"Elderday provides such a valuable service for our community," she said. "And we are very appreciative of all the support from Bethany Lutheran Church.

The Elderday Center is housed in the Bethany Missionary Center on Wilson Street. It provides activities and companionship for seniors. For information, visit or call (630) 761-9750.

Another group that meets in the Bethany Missionary Center is the Fox Valley Wood Carvers, not to be confused with the Woodworkers, who also meet at Bethany.

The wood carvers group is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a special show in Paxton Hall at the Batavia Congregational Church from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 27. Admission is free.

I've done a number of stories about this group over the last 10 years and every time I have visited them to do the interview, I am amazed at the intricate carvings they have done. They also are a very community-minded group, contributing more than $2,000 to local charities since the group started their cane auction that takes place at Windmill City Fest.

Don't miss the opportunity to see their work and view demonstrations on carving.

Send your Batavia news to Sammi King at