A tale of survival


Teen theater to present ‘I Never Saw Another Butterfly’

Alex Tenbrink, left, and Kayla Kusy rehearse a scene from the Naugatuck Teen Theater’s upcoming production of ‘I Never Saw Another Butterfly.’ The play opens on April 8. –CONTRIBUTED
Alex Tenbrink, left, and Kayla Kusy rehearse a scene from the Naugatuck Teen Theater’s upcoming production of ‘I Never Saw Another Butterfly.’ The play opens on April 8. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Of the 15,000 children who wound up in the Terezin concentration camp during the Holocaust, only 100 survived.

The Naugatuck Teen Theater is bringing the story of one of those survivors to life in its upcoming production of “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” which opens April 8.

The play follows the real life story of Raja Englanderova, a child whose life is changed forever when she is brought from her home in Prague to Terezin.

“It’s not your typical Holocaust play. We all know the Holocaust, but we don’t know the stories behind it. It’s kind of cool to see those different stories people have and to see that not everybody has the same story,” Lindsey Rosa said.

Rosa, a Prospect resident and a junior at Woodland Regional High School, is playing Irena Synkova, one of the first inhabitants of Terezin.

Director Christie Delong said the play’s content is still relevant today.

“I think it is something, especially today with all of the political aspects in the world, we can all relate to. I think it is something we need to be reminded of, to be made aware of, that this history happened so it doesn’t repeat itself,” Delong said.

Kayla Kusy, a senior at Naugatuck High School who is playing Raja Englanderova, said the process of getting into her role is difficult.

“It’s very challenging because I go from living my great life to putting myself inside this character and it’s so different. I never played anything like this before. For me it’s really challenging, but it is a good challenge,” Kusy said.

While the play covers a tough subject matter, it brings humanity to a time that most people are just used to reading about, Naugatuck High School senior Alex Tenbrink said.

“It really opened my eyes to see how they lived back then. We all know the Holocaust happened, but for me personally I never said, ‘oh, they were living people back then. They had lives and all of a sudden their lives were taken away,’” said Tenbrink, who is playing Honza Kosek, a young man in Terezin.

Laura Vitzoski, a Beacon Falls resident and junior at Woodland, echoed Tenbrink’s comment.

“A lot of people learn facts about the Holocaust, so it will be nice if somebody is able to take home an understanding of the cruelty to humanity that was the Holocaust,” said Vitzoski, who is playing Irca.

Delong said the theater hasn’t done a production like this before.

“It’s the first time in quite a while that Naugatuck Teen Theater has done a production of this nature that is not a comedy, a musical, or Shakespeare. The kids are really getting their first taste into a more dramatic experience,” Delong said.

The production will also mark the first time students from City Hill Middle School come to the theater to see a play. Eighth-graders will be attending two private showings of the play as part of their curriculum.

“We are very, very excited to be working with the school system. … I think the more that we can cross boundaries with each other as a community, the better. We are doing a piece of theater that will tie directly into their curriculum. So for them to not only be studying it in a book but to watch it come to life, it will be a completely different experience,” Delong said.

City Hill Principal Eileen Mezzo said the school wanted eighth-grade students to see the play because it ties into what they are studying.

“Our hope is our students will make a connection to their unit of study on World War II and gain a deeper appreciation of live theater,” Mezzo said. “We are so grateful to the Naugatuck Teen Theater for this opportunity.”

The actors hope the students are moved by the play.

“I really hope they take something from this because it’s a very powerful show. I want them walking home saying ‘wow, that’s what it was like.’ Then they can put that into their learning,” Rosa said.

“I Never Saw Another Butterfly” opens April 8 at 8 p.m. at St. Michael’s Parish Hall, 210 Church St. The theater will also present the show April 9 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and April 10 at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for seniors, and $15 for adults and can be purchased online at www.naugatuckteentheater.com.