Serious subject on stage

DALLAS — If the season had gone as originally planned, actors at Dallas High School would be preparing to stage “Pride and Prejudice.”   Blair Cromwell, the drama teacher and director of the school’s fall play, “The Music Man,” discovered during rehearsal she needed to make a change.   “I realized — while that was a great choice for us — programmatically it was another version of ‘The Music Man,’” she said. “It’s a huge cast … and it has a lighter tone. I thought I didn’t pick enough contrast in the season.”   With the opening of Barbara Lebow’s “A Shayna Maidel” Thursday, Dallas High has taken its winter production in a completely different direction.    “A Shayna Maidel,” which translates to “a pretty girl,” tells the story of a Jewish family from Poland, half of which immigrated to the United States before World War II while the other half stayed behind and was eventually forced into a concentration camp.    Father of the family, Mordechai, takes his youngest daughter, Rose, to New York, leaving behind his wife “Mama” and eldest daughter, Lusia, who can’t travel due to illness.    Sixteen years later, after the end of the war, Lusia joins her father and sister in New York. Mama and Lusia’s close friend, Hanna, have died and she hasn’t been able to locate her husband, Duvid, after being separated during the war.   Hannah Fawcett, who plays Lusia, said her character may have arrived in New York in 1946, but she’s still living in another place and time — much of it revealed through flashback scenes.   “Nothing is ever bound in reality because the things that were real to her no longer exist,” Fawcett said. “All of her family died, except for the ones she doesn’t remember.”    Actually, she does remember her father — and their shared knowledge of the reason behind the family’s extended separation is a source of conflict between the two. Photo by Jolene Guzman Lusia (Hannah Fawcett, right) teaches her younger sister, Rose (Cati Rangel) a hopeful song prisoners used to sing in World War II concentration camps in a scene in the play.   “I’m like a bomb,” Fawcett said. “He has a power struggle with me because he did this awful, awful thing and it’s been living with him. It’s who’s going to say it first? It’s a delicate balance, like walking a tight rope.”   For Rose, the news she has a sister is terrifying and exciting at the same time. Vibrant Rose, who has fully adjusted to life in the U.S., and wounded Lusia are a study in opposites — at first.    “It’s kind of surreal,” said Cati Rangel, who plays Rose. “He (Mordechai) never told (her) about it, so I don’t know about her at all. I know we have the same father and mother, but besides that I know nothing. ... I don’t know what to do with it.”   Cromwell said the seriousness of the material isn’t the only challenge involved in staging “A Shayna Maidel.” The play is long, and with only six characters, that means a lot of time on stage and a massive amount of lines, especially for the three central characters.    “In a lighter play or a bigger-cast play, there are more people to shoulder the weight,” Cromwell said. “I think that has been a big adjustment.”   For Andrei Zamudio, who plays Mordechai, this is the first small production he’s performed in.    “It a different challenge for sure,” he said. “The line load is staggering for me, versus anything else I’ve done.”   But none of the cast or crew regrets taking on the production — in fact, Rangel and Fawcett lobbied for it. They even “chained” themselves to the proscenium arch in the Bollman Auditorium to stress their point in a campaign they called “Chain a Maidel for A Shayna Maidel.”   “I think it’s been a really exciting and challenging project,” Cromwell said. “I think that you learn so much when you do things that are this hard. Everybody grows.”   Showtime!   What: “A Shayna Maidel.”   When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m.   Where: Bollman Auditorium, Dallas High School, 1250 SE Holman Ave., Dallas.    Admission: $5. Tickets are available at the DHS main office or at the door.   For more information: 503-623-8336.    


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