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Centennial to stage drama set in Canada after World War II

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LORRIE CECIL/THISWEEKNEWS
Centennial High School students (from left) senior Jasmine Smith as Aunt Bertha, junior Seth Brewer as Norman, junior Madison Matias as Ruthie, and senior Mahmud Bari as Joe perform a scene during rehearsal of For This Moment Alone. Performances will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 22 and 23. Tickets are available at the door, $5 for adults, $3 for students.
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By ThisWeek Community News  • 

When an anticipated reunion with a long-lost relative turns up an impostor instead, it throws a woman and the family she lives with into turmoil.

The year is 1948, the setting Toronto, the family Jewish and the person pretending to be "Freddie" is a Holocaust survivor seeking to flee two years in a European camp for displaced persons.

The U.S. and amateur debut of a play with that real-life incident from the author's family at its core will be at Centennial High School.

Public performances of For This Moment Alone by Marcia Kash are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, and Saturday, Nov. 23.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for students.

Centennial High is located at 1441 Bethel Road.

The cast and crew have been working on the play since early October, and preparations have included a visit from an actual Holocaust survivor, watching films about Nazi atrocities and speaking with the author herself via Skype, according to Scott E. Wilson, drama teacher and director of "For This Moment Alone."

The cast members spent an entire week discussing the script, looking at it in a historical context and trying to determine why the characters do what they do, Wilson said.

"What's made it so fun for me is to see the students make these realizations," he said. "It's taken a lot of thinking. They've really had to be smart about this show. It's not fluff."

"Set in Toronto in 1948, a Jewish family, struggling to recover from the horrors of war in Europe, finally has cause to rejoice," according to the synopsis on the playwright's website. "Ruth is about to be reunited with the only surviving member of her immediate family, her brother Freddie. But when she goes to Union Station to meet him she is faced with the most devastating shock of her young life: The brother she was expecting turns out to be a stranger, an imposter holding her brother's papers," the synopsis states. "Suddenly she and the family with whom she lives are forced into a situation that is almost impossible to resolve. If they abandon this displaced person they condemn him to more pain, more suffering, and risk the possibility of his being deported."

Kash, according to her website, trained as an actor at the Drama Centre in London. She turned to writing plays in the early 1990s, after moving to Canada.

For This Moment Alone, a two-act play, debuted in Toronto in 2011.

The Centennial High School production comes about practically by accident.

Wilson was in a drama bookstore in New York City this past June, picking up copies of eight plays he felt were possibilities for his students. The store was running a special: buy 10 and get another free. The free one was For This Moment Alone, Wilson said. None of the other plays panned out.

"I just loved the story," Wilson said. "The characters were very real and very fleshed-out.

"They all had their own personal stories that were all pretty well-developed."

He was delighted when students were enthusiastic about his choice of a play.

"I was worried that they wouldn't like it, because that's happened before," Wilson said.

"This one they really liked.

"It gives another side of the Holocaust; it's about what happened later, how did these families reconnect. You don't hear about what happened after.

"I think they're doing a great job," Wilson said.

"This is a very challenging piece because obviously none of us can relate to what happened.

"One of the characters is a survivor of the Holocaust and (the actor playing the role) obviously couldn't hope to understand what the character went through."

"The title is a Talmudic reference to the hope that exists for humanity," the playwright's website states. "When a person does a good deed that she/he doesn't need to do, God looks down and says, 'For this moment alone it was worth creating the world.'"

Getting to Skype with the playwright, according to Wilson, "was an amazing experience" for the students in the play.

 

Cast and crew

The students taking roles in Centennial High School's fall play include Mahmud Bari as Joe, Jasmine Smith as Bertha, Madison Matias as Ruthie, Seth Brewer as Norman, William Garrity as Freddie, Matt Ballard as Sol and Jessie Beach as Ada.

Members of the crew include Maya Baumann, stage manager; Kyle Skrei, assistant stage manager; Callum Cree, technical director; Amad Hussain, master carpenter; Rachel Massey, costumes; Martin Yzeiri, lights; Djordje Marcic, sound; Milan Rasic, props and Sarah Turner, director's assistant.

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