I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Coming of Age in an Age All Wrong

E. Rae "Katie" Hernandez, Assistant Editor/Reporter

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“Butterflies don’t live in here, in the ghetto.”

This line was penned as part of the poem, “The Butterfly,” by Pavel Friedman, a young man who died in Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Butterflies—a symbol of youth, freedom, and with their absence, a fading hope—serve as the central theme in Celeste Raspanti’s dramatically heart touching play, I Never Saw Another Butterfly.

New Caney High School’s Center Stage Theater Company debuted I Never Saw Another Butterfly play production on Thursday, April 7. A second showing was performed on Friday, April 8.

Written by Celeste Raspanti, the play spotlights main character Raja Englanderova, flawlessly portrayed by Emily Thompson. Raja is a Jew—and so are all of her friends and family. She finds herself separated from her parents, her companions, and eventually, her lover Honza, and yet she strives to discover and spread beauty to other children facing such an ugly time and place.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly is also a poetry and artwork anthology created by the captive Jewish children confined in Terezin. “For the children, butterflies became a symbol of defiance, making it possible for them to live on and play happily while waiting to be transported,” explained the playwright in a brief introduction.

1,500,000 children never saw the war’s end or the world beyond the concentration camp’s walls again. Revering the young lives lost, the Holocaust Museum of Houston has assembled The Butterfly Project, a memorial exhibition that anyone can contribute their own artwork. The Museum is collecting 1,500,000 handmade butterflies for a display in spring 2013.

Prior to and after the performance, the Center Stage play audience members decorated paper butterflies in memory of the children and their suffering. Although the museum has already collected 600,000 butterflies, the production will eventually donate the remaining ones to their group.

The play received the alternate position in UIL One Act Play competition. Actors earning awards include Olivia Schoppe, playing Irena, Phillip Skoblick, portraying Honza in Friday’s performance, and Franchesca Ortiz as one of the youths of Terezin. Amanda Drake, lighting manager, was also given an award for technical theatre.

Aside from the talented actors themselves, many students and teachers throughout NCHS were involved in the play’s production. Art teacher Mrs. Madgar and her students created a touching slideshow, aired before the play’s first scene, and the play’s backdrops and props. Fashion Design teacher Mrs. Lemma assisted with costumes.

Center Stage’s execution of I Never Saw Another Butterfly brought tears of anguish and sadness from viewers for the young children who suffered through the horrors of war and oppression so many years ago. A tale of endurance and strength, while maintaining faith and love when none seems to exist, the play offered a gentle realization of war from a child’s perspective, forced into a trying adulthood, where the spirit of butterflies is nearly faded from existence.

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