‘Silent’ strikes historical, modern chords
Trying to write a historically faithful account on a sensitive, and often sensationalized, topic like Nazi Germany is not an easy task; just ask David Meyers, playwright of the CATF world premiere production, “We Will Not Be Silent.”
According to Meyers, he first heard the story of Sophie Scholl and The White Rose by reading an article.
“I read the story in a newspaper and thought it was incredible. I started researching more about this group of students, and about Sophie in particular, who was arrested when she threw pamphlets from a balcony,” Meyers said. “I knew other people needed to hear this story, so I decided to turn it into a play.”
Meyers said that, before undertaking much research, he wanted to write a draft and flush out the characters himself.
“I wrote the first draft without much research. My goal was to dig into the characters’ minds and then do the research to make sure I didn’t go off the rails,” Meyers said. “Much of what I wrote turned out to be true. The group had a commitment to religion and philosophy – that was something I didn’t know.”
According to Meyers, the core tension of his play turned out to be somewhat true as well.
“I came up with the idea of this Nazi officer wanting to save (Sophie’s) life, but we don’t know if he is being truthful or not. The son of the officer who actually interrogated Sophie Scholl said he did actually try to save her life,” he said.
While Meyers said he has not worked with the actors in this production before, he is impressed with how they have brought the characters to life.
“(The actors) have done a wonderful job. They and the director have taken complete freedom in developing the characters. What they have come up with is what I envisioned,” Meyers said. “They are all smart, great actors. They bring these characters fully to life. Those I know who have worked with CATF before said I would have a phenomenal summer. The caliber of people and the talent is really high – it has been amazing.”
The plot of “We Will Not Be Silent” focuses directly on Sophie, a German college student who led the only major act of civil disobedience during World War II. She and the White Rose published underground anti-Nazi materials calling for the peaceful overthrow of Hitler, an act which proved to be courageous and dangerous.
“If you look at the text of their pamphlets, they cite works of literature and philosophy. Written words tended to matter more then,” Meyers said. “What type of moral courage does it take to risk your life for something you know is right? They knew what the punishment would be for what they were doing, but they did it anyway.”
In that, Meyers said he sees a connection between his play and the current political climate around the world.
“I think the goal of the play is for everyone to ask ‘How far am I willing to go to have freedom?’ These are things we take for granted in this country,” Meyers said. “We can go to protests here, but in Russia you go to jail for five years for simply going to one. In this play you see the government coming down on people for simply speaking against what they disagreed with.”
That is why the story of “We Will Not Be Silent” was so important for Meyers to tell.
“Often times people who do this type of thing are just thrown into a ditch and forgotten about. We want to say we would be Sophie and speak out, but most of us would have been the Nazi officer, just going along with things even though we disagree,” he said. “I hope people walk away questioning their commitment to things they believe in and think are right.”
“We Will Not Be Silent” is directed by Ed Herendeen and stars Lexi Lapp as Sophie Scholl; Paul DeBoy as Kurt Grunwald (the Nazi officer); and Lucky Gretzinger as Hans Scholl (Sophie’s brother and a member of the White Rose). The production opens Saturday, July 8 at 8 p.m. in the Marinoff Theater. Other performance dates include: July 12, 20 and 26 at 2 and 8 p.m.; July 14, 22 and 28 at 8 p.m.; July 15, 23 and 29 at 2 p.m.; and July 16 and 30 at 6 p.m. Pay-what-you-can previews are Tuesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. For tickets, call 304-876-3473, or visit catf.org.