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Using Theater as a living Time Machine

Since launching The Butterfly Project on Holocaust Remembrance Day April 19th, 2012, our company has performed for our families and friends, seniors living in a retirement community, and middle and high school students.  The company of 37 young actors and two adult actresses will tour to forty schools, places of worship and community centers this season, sharing the story of the children of Terezin, a concentration camp of the Holocaust.  Following each performance, we invite the audience to stay for a talk back with the actors. 

In rehearsals, we worked diligently to prepare our performers for this difficult production.  Our process began with several long conversations explaining the history and circumstances of the Holocaust and Terezin.  From there we explored our own emotional point of view through guided group theatrical exercises and introspective journaling.  The result is a complex piece of theatre relatable to our actors’ peers yet sophisticated and sincere enough to engage adult audiences. 

The post-show talk backs prove this.  Each audience reflects its unique perspective and relationship to the Holocaust and our production.  We hear from people who remember living through World War II and the Holocaust.  We are asked questions from young students who might not know much about the period at all. This cross-cultural, multi-generational conversation between actor and audience reveals the magnitude of impact our company has on our community.

During a post show conversation at a local retirement community, an audience member asked the cast how their participation in the production changed their relationship to their grandparents.  One young lady (who is wise beyond her years, I might add) shared a beautiful sentiment.  She told us her grandmother, who had lived through this moment in time, passed away when she was much younger.  The young actress was not old enough then to appreciate her grandmother’s stories and now yearns to know more about her.  Each time she leaves her world for our Terezin, she imagines living through her grandmother’s youth.   In this way, she feels forever connected to the woman she only began to know.

This piece of theater functions as our own time machine.  Through performance we relive moments from the past.  In conversation, we connect our past to our present.  By process, we enhance the collective memory of our young actors and instill values that will guide their future.

-Tim Popp, Co-Director The Butterfly Project

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