Paper Candles Premier at Venture Theatre
in Billings, Montana

A Note from the Author

The Billings Gazette/Bob Zellar

Colin McRae, Marky Hilario, Emily Rapacz (L-R)
and Lyndi Hampton (on bed) star as the
Schnitzer family in
the Venture Theatre
production of
Paper Candles

On December 2, 2005, a workshop production of Paper Candles premiered at the Venture Theatre in Billings, Montana. Exactly 12 years before, to the day, a Jewish boy's bedroom window was shattered by a group of bigots. This was the culmination of a series of acts of hate towards the town's minorities that had plagued Billings throughout 1993, prompting the extraordinary community response recounted in the play.

This December 2 was a night of celebration, instead of fear, as Billings residents of all races and faiths turned out for the premier and a number of related events for children and adults.

I was there along with the play's lyricist, Roxanne Kent. We were able to meet with the children in the cast and a number of young people in the audiences. It was gratifying to see how young people can relate the events in the play to issues in their own lives, particularly those involving bullying and intolerance.

Katie Kemmick, an 11-year-old girl in the cast told us, "I wish we could bring this play to my school. There's this boy. He's sort of goofy and different and some of the boys in his class give him a hard time. The other boys don't do anything to help him. The girls try, but he gets embarrassed. If the kids in school saw the play I know they'd 'get it' and not let him deal with that stuff alone ... maybe some of the mean kids could play Isaac [one of the play's characters who must cope with bullying and anti-semitism] and see what that feels like."

"Isaac" and "Teresa" in the Venture Theatre Workshop Production of Paper Candles
The Billings Gazette
/Bob Zellar

David Crisp wrote in The Billings Outpost:
     "In a discussion with the audience [after the performance] the young actors said they had been moved by the experience, especially by the opportunity to portray real and living people. One called it a 'once in a lifetime experience,' a way to help spread a great message. And it may be that the significance of the menorah incident will take root not in those who lived through it, but instead with their children. A woman in the audience said, 'The only way we're going to have a better, more loving tomorrow is through the children.' 
     Mace Archer, artistic director for Venture Theatre, summed up the afternoon session: 'This story has become a metaphor for people around the country. And it's important to see your own life as metaphor.' "

We hope all of you will agree.


For additional comments from children and adults about their involvement in the play project, please click here




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