Tigard High Theatre Sheds New Light on History

Cait Smith, Ryder Thompson, and Kehaunani Reid play Eva Schloss and family in 'And Then They Came For Me.'

Tigard High School Theatre opens a new show this Valentine’s Day weekend. The dramatic and educational play tells the story of families who were impacted by the Holocaust. It follows the school’s fall production of Shrek the Musical, which was their most successful musical in the past 20 years. They would like to thank the Tigard community and Tigard Life for supporting local theatre!

Tigard High is staging And Then They Came For Me with one week of performances, Feb. 13-15 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on the 15 at 2 p.m. And Then They Came For Me is a moving, beautiful drama that tells survivors’ stories of the Holocaust. Tickets
are $10 at the door and $8 online at THSDrama.com.

Maya Caulfield and Maevin Ward act in Tigard High School’s winter play, ‘And Then They Came For Me.’

And Then They Came For Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank is a fresh take on teaching history. It combines projected tapes of interviews with real-life Holocaust survivors with live actors recreating scenes from their lives on stage. The drama follows Ed Silverberg and Eva Schloss, two Holocaust survivors and friends of the iconic diarist, Anne Frank. Senior Cait Smith and junior Ryan Curry play Eva and Ed. They are accompanied by freshman Déja Fitzwater as Anne Frank.

So, high schoolers will be staging a play about the Holocaust. A common reaction is that it will be too harsh, too painful, too adult for young people. At first, I held a similar view. However, upon reading the script for the play, I realized that this play is about how three teenagers saw the world not so long ago. In Tigard, most students are lucky to receive a great Holocaust education. In middle school, a Holocaust survivor and novelist visited my class and shared his story. In high school, I interviewed Manny “The Famous Troublemaker” Taiblum and asked him about his Holocaust survival story. Not everyone is as lucky as I was to learn about the Holocaust. I asked Manny one question: “We (Generation Z and Millennials) are the last generation to meet survivors of the Holocaust. What message do you want us to carry on to future generations?”

Manny told me simply, “Remember. Remember. Remember.”

A study found that 66 percent of millennials cannot identify what Auschwitz is. Twenty-two percent of these people had never learned about the Holocaust. This is why Tigard High School Theatre Director Todd Hermanson chose this play for his students on the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz – the German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp.

“With the historical significance of this production, we thought it was really timely,” says Hermanson. He hopes to take this opportunity to educate local people about history. On paper and in books, the severity of the Holocaust can be hard to comprehend. By teaching about the Holocaust through theatre, Tigard High School gives visual learners the opportunity to understand key historical events. “Although it’s a difficult subject matter, it’s important that we talk about it. There’s that saying: ‘In history, if you forget it, you’re doomed to repeat it.’ And we should never forget it.”

Guest director Karlyn Love is welcomed to the Tigard High Stage. The recently retired teacher taught drama at Oregon City High School for thirty years, where she directed nearly one hundred school productions. “This show is important for everyone to see,” says Love. “I think the reason that Holocaust survivors continue to tell their stories is they want to make sure that people remember. They want to make sure that people never, ever forget, so something like the Holocaust can never happen again. It’s important that we educate the next generation so that those seeds of evil can never, ever be planted and grown again.”

Ryan Curry plays a young Ed Silverberg, a Jewish boy around 16 who runs country to country trying to stay one step ahead of the Nazis. Curry is acting in his first dramatic play and is challenged to step outside of his comfort zone in acting. “There’s a scene where I have to jump out of a moving truck,” says Curry. Despite the difficulty of the show, he says that “It’s really educational not only about the Holocaust but the idea of discrimination and hate in general. Things like this are still happening today. It’s more relevant now than it’s ever been. I think it’s a really important message to convey.”

Deja Fitzwater plays a 13-year-old Anne Frank. She realizes that this show is not a joke. “As actors, we have a lot of fun being together and being able to perform this to show for people,” says Fitzwater. “This isn’t supposed to be meant to be a sad story. The story might give you chills, but that’s not the point. The point is to show the story of the Holocaust in a new way. The point is to show that it can happen again, which has been answered already. It’s like we didn’t learn.”

As learners about the Holocaust, it is really easy to disconnect from the story–to convince ourselves that the events that happened are so grim and otherworldly that they couldn’t possibly be real. It can take many people a long time to accept that these stories are far from fiction. I know that Holocaust survivors Eva Schloss and Ed Silverberg don’t think of themselves as heroes, but I know my life is richer for knowing them a little. We cannot change what happened. But we can change how we relate to it and control our own futures.