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And a Child Shall Lead: Ensemble Presents Powerful Performance This Weekend

By Jessica Isaacs and Katie Benfield

Starting Friday, Blowing Rock’s own professional theatre company opens a heartrending performance of Michael Slade’s “And a Child Shall Lead” — a play set in a concentration camp established by the SS during World War II.

The performance opens on Friday evening at Ensemble Stage and will be offered again on Saturday and Sunday. A cast of children will portray this true story of steadfast hope and innocence that existed in the camp in the face of unspeakable horror.

“There are no adults in this cast, just the eight kids. We’ve been rehearsing it for three-and-a-half months and it’s going to be very powerful show,” said Ensemble Art Director Gary Smith. “It’s not what you’d expect from kids in theater.

“They are playing real people, not fictitious characters, and most of them died at that camp. The kids are doing a wonderful job of understanding the characters, respecting the script and honoring the people they’re playing.”

According to Smith, the main aspect of the play is the child-like innocence and attitude that these children maintain throughout their traumatizing experience with the Germans. Their story has been preserved through their physical artifacts from that time period, ranging from poems to pictures, and this play presents their experiences.

“Not many kids from 6 to 12 or 13 years old have to worry about maybe dying tomorrow,” Smith said. “These kids did. They knew exactly what was going on, and they knew that 99% of the time kids were taken to the gas chambers immediately.

“It’s incredible that even through all of this, they remained innocent and child-like even when dealing with something as horrible as that.”

There are several reasons why this production is important, one being that this story needs to be told and retold, according to Smith. If it isn’t continuously retold, people will start to forget what happened to all of those people, most of whom are no longer living.

“It’s also important because this kind of thing continues to happen in places all over the world, even today,” Smith said, “It definitely brings to light the fact that adults fight in wars, but it’s the children who tend to be the recipients of all the bad things that come with it, as well as the adults.”

The play is a special performance due to the fact that it’s the fifth production in the usual four-production summer season.

Click here to visit Ensemble Stage online for tickets and show times.

For more information, call Ensemble Stage at 828-414-1844.