August 29, 2012 - The Holocaust was probably the most horrific tragedy in human history perpetrated by some of the most evil people to ever walk the face of the Earth.
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The only thing that could compound that tragedy would be if future generations learned nothing about it or from it.
Oxford resident Kelly Brock wants to make sure that doesn't happen. That's why she's bringing her play "Who Returned My Soul?" to the Oxford Middle School stage on Friday, Nov. 9 and Saturday, Nov. 10.
Both performances start at 7 p.m.
Presented through the Oxford Community Theatre, the play features the true stories of 10 survivors of the Nazis' systematic mass extermination of six million European Jews during World War II.
"I get a sense that not a whole lot of people know much about the Holocaust or really studied it in school," Brock said. "I just wanted to bring these stories to a community that does not have a large Jewish population. I don't know any Jewish people that live in Oxford or Orion."
Brock is holding auditions for the play at OMS on Monday, Sept. 17 and Tuesday, Sept. 18. Auditions are from 6-8 p.m. and callbacks will take place on Thursday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.
The play requires seven adult men, four adult women, two boys and two girls (ages 8-13).
The play is really a series of monologues performed in a Readers Theatre format, which means the actors will be using scripts on stage.
An actor portraying a fictional historian will give the audience facts and background about the Holocaust that will serve as the context and lead-in for each survivor's tale.
"I think it's important for everybody to hear a survivor's story," said Brock, who moved here from Arizona in 2001 and is married to 1999 Oxford High School graduate Ronald Brock.
All of the survivors featured in the play are (or were) volunteers at the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach. She flew down there in August 2007 and interviewed all 10 of them over a two-day period.
Spending an average of two hours talking with each survivor gave Brock a more complete picture of them as multidimensional individuals, not just survivors of Nazi genocide.
Visiting their homes, looking at old photos, breaking bread with them – it all gave Brock a unique perspective that isn't found in history books. That's why her play touches on their experiences before and after WWII as well during.
Brock estimated her plays been performed about 15 times over the last four years and has even gone international.
"It's been translated into four different languages at this point," she said. It's been performed in French, Polish, Hebrew and German.
The most meaningful performance came in 2010 when Brock, who has a Master of Arts in Theatre from Wayne State University, took a group of actors from Rochester College to Miami to perform it for the survivors, their families and about 300 other folks.
"A lot of them were speechless," she said. "Families came up to me crying. There were so grateful we did this."
One of the survivors had died while Brock was writing the play and his widow came up to her after the performance. Her words made a lasting impression.
"She told me it was the first time she felt like she'd heard her husband's voice since he had died," Brock said. "My goal was to preserve their stories and their spirit. She confirmed to me that I had achieved that goal."
Brock believes it's important for Oxford residents, particularly students, to see "Who Returned My Soul?" because living around here, they probably won't ever meet a Holocaust survivor or be exposed to Jewish culture "unless it's through a play or art."
"I really hope people will come and see it," she said. "It just kind of amazes me how little people think or know about the Holocaust. I just want to bring some awareness about it and other forms of genocide."
Brock noted the play is appropriate for children age 13 and older. Parents wishing to bring younger children should use their judgment.
"Consider it like a PG-13 movie," she said. "They're not going to see any violence on stage because there's no real action, but they will be talking about some violent acts."
For more information about the play auditions and/or performances, please contact the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department at (248) 628-1720. Ask for Becky Paquin.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.