BBC play shares Holocaust story

June 20th, 2015 12:08 pm

First Posted: 2/29/2012

Hashem yish-mereynu mikhol ro veyishmor ses nafsheynu.

Six students at Baptist Bible College are practicing the pronunciations of several Yiddish phrases including this one, which translates, "May God protect us from all evil and may He protect our souls." The language is scattered throughout the script of their upcoming play, "A Shayna Maidel." The title is another Yiddish phrase, which translates "a pretty girl," referring to an inner beauty.

The play is written by Barbara Lebow, and will be directed by BBC Professor Brian Maxwell March 1, 2 and 3 in the Phelps Student Center at 7:30 p.m. It will also include original music composed by Seth Mitchell and performed on piano by Jeremy Kemmerer, both former Baptist Bible College students.

The story is of two sisters, one who survived Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust and the other who was raised as an American, reunited after being separated for 20 years. Maxwell described it as "a meaningful, historically relevant story about familial love and the power of hope."

He said he chose the piece partly because it allowed his students to "dig deep into character development."

"I have been blessed to collaborate with hard-working, talented students who are willing to continue digging deeper, always looking for more," said Maxwell.

The two sisters, Rose Weiss and Lusia Weiss Pechenik, will be played by Lennae Warren, an online student who lives on campus with her husband James, and Hannah Sayre, a senior majoring in Communications Drama.

Warren said what she likes most about the play is acting as sisters with Sayre, her best friend since childhood. "It hardly requires any acting," she said.

Warren also played Kitty Verdun in "Charley's Aunt" at the college and said she chose to try out for "A Shayna Maidel" because she loves the beauty of the story and the challenge the role holds in capturing many different emotions.

Sayre has been involved in seven different productions at the college in the past, and said she wanted to be in this one because of the beauty of the script and the delicacy and sacred quality of the subject matter.

"I have found this experience beautiful yet haunting," Sayre said. "I have become protective of the story and the characters. This is a part of history that is slowly becoming nothing more than a page in our history books. While the characters we portray are fictional, the history of the situation is real. Having the chance to honor those who ‘were' [the characters in the story] is a privilege."

It was Sayre's interest in "A Shayna Maidel" that initially prompted her roommate, Rachel Frazier, a senior majoring in Sacred Music, to try out for the play, which will be the first she has taken part in at the college. Frazier said Sayre described the play to her shortly before tryouts, and she was so intrigued, she decided to come along.

"I have not regretted that decision," she said.

Frazier will play the role of Hanna, a childhood friend of Lusia's who experienced the Holocaust with her. Her character appears throughout the play in flashbacks Lusia has of her.

Collis Bryant, a junior majoring in Drama, will play the role of Duvid, Lusia's husband who was arrested six years before and hasn't seen his wife since.

Bryant said he ran the lights for "The Boys Next Door" last semester, and enjoys acting and would like to pursue it for the glory and honor of God.

"This has been a very challenging role for me in more ways than one," he said, "and Dr. Maxwell, along with the rest of the cast, has been very encouraging to me from the very beginning."

Chad Finke, a sophomore majoring in Pastoral Ministries, will play the role of Mordechai Weiss, and also played Norman Bulansky last semester in "The Boys Next Door."

In his biography in the program for "A Shayna Maidel," Finke thanked the cast of the play for always making him feel welcome, the "gentlemen at Elan Gardens" for helping the cast with their Yiddish, and Jesus for his redemption and life.

Traci Thompson, a junior majoring in Communications Drama, has acted in five previous productions at BBC and will play the role of Mama. She described her character as "a steady, loving-spirited woman whose strong faith in God is woven into her every thought and action."

"Acting out the scenes has never gotten old," Thompson said. "We have been rehearsing all semester and I find myself living and acting the scenes as if it were the first time. The characters and script are so beautifully crafted that I find it easy to keep the scenes fresh and alive."

Maxwell said he believes those who attend each performance of "A Shayna Maidel" will "experience an enjoyable, entertaining, moving and meaningful evening."

Ticket information can be obtained by calling the BBC box office at 585.9000.