Nick Caruso, left, Maggie Adolf, center, and Elizabeth Chasse-King rehearse a scene in “Our Stories Need to Be Told” at the Theater Project in Brunswick. Photo by Molly Haley

Their stories need to be told. That’s Wendy Poole’s answer to the questions, why this play, why now?

“Because we aren’t learning from our history. Because we are repeating our mistakes. Because we are living in a world where hate is so prevalent,” she said.

The play is “Our Stories Need to Be Told,” which Poole wrote based on first-person accounts of Holocaust survivors from Maine, whose oral histories are housed in the collection of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine in Augusta. The Theater Project in Brunswick, where Poole works as executive director, premieres the play beginning Friday night.

“It just can’t happen again,” Poole said of the Holocaust.

There are 14 survivor stories, told as a series of vignettes and linked by music written by Jewish composers or made popular by Jewish performers. Each story gets its own moment. The stories were collected in the 1980s, and Poole presents segments of them verbatim, with the voice of the survivors as they tell their stories to an interviewer.

As time moves on and the Holocaust becomes an event subject to historic interpretation, it’s ever more important to remind people of the actual human toll, Poole said. For those who don’t know or who do not believe history, the Holocaust refers to the persecution and murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime and its sympathizers before and during World War II. Many historians and others worry that the hate-mongering toward minority ethnic groups today signals a return to the cultural attitudes that led to the Holocaust.

This play is meant to educate people about what happened through the direct stories of those who were there. They are bare, powerful narratives, connected by the atrocities of the times and by the circumstances of the world that brought all of these survivors to Maine, a place they chose because they believed Maine represented a better way of life. Above all, Poole wants the audience to come away from “Our Stories Need to Be Told” with a firm sense that these are stories of Maine people, some of whom are still alive and still telling their stories publicly.

By connecting Maine people directly to the Holocaust, it makes the stories more tangible and real, Poole said. “This is a play about humanity and what it means to be human,” she said.

The Theater Project is working with a cast of eight professional adult actors and a company of student actors. Poole also partnered with local schools to turn the play into an educational opportunity. She landed a couple grants that enabled her to link the play to school units on the Holocaust. “We have been talking about hate – what we hate and why we hate and how easy it is to hate,” she said. “And then we talked about the things that unite us, and one thing we came up with was music, and that’s where the music came into the play.”


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