Memories — good or bad — are extremely powerful and shape who you are.
As a Holocaust survivor, Lou Leviticus of Lincoln knows a thing or two about powerful memories.
He was 11 when he escaped from the German police by jumping from a second-floor balcony in the Dutch city of Amersfoot.
It was the last time he saw his parents, who died a few weeks later in Auschwitz.
“We’ve all got those memories,” Leviticus said. “You don’t forget them. Sometimes, you suppress them, but then something happens to remind you.”
Like a train stopping — the trigger in Carl Slatboom’s one-act play, “The Train,” which opens Wednesday at the Johnny Carson Theater.
Local performing arts organizations the Angels Theatre Company and Third Chair Chamber Players are collaborating with the Lied Center for Performing Arts on the chamber theater production.
“The Train” also will be performed in Omaha, Fremont and Kearney as part of the Lied’s Arts Across Nebraska initiative.
Translated by Leviticus and directed by Angels’ artistic director Judith Hart, “The Train” is about an elderly Jewish couple who become stuck in a stopped train.
They recall the last time they were on a train together — in Westbork, the Netherlands, where the Germans had a transit camp during WWII to deport more than 100,000 Dutch Jews and foreign Jewish refugees, including teenager Anne Frank.
Leviticus said his foster father in the Netherlands, who was part of the Resistance and took care of him during the war, gave him the play to read.
“I found it interesting,” Leviticus said. “Things happen in it that happened to my friends and relatives. I had memories of it, too. The play is about memory, really.”
Leviticus contacted the playwright and asked permission to translate it.
“I told him I thought there would be a chance to perform it in the U.S.,” he said. “I thought it would do some good here.”
Leviticus gave the scripts to several presenters in Lincoln, including Hart, who was looking to do a project with Third Chair, and Lied executive director Charles Henry Bethea.
Hart said she was thrilled when Bethea agreed to produce it because The Loft at The Mill — home to the Angels and Third Chair — wasn’t big enough for the project.
“We wanted to rent (Johnny) Carson (Theater), but Charles said he would do better than that,” Hart said. “All the planets converged at the right time.”
The one-hour play will feature Omaha actors Paul Boesing, Andrew McGreevy and Jane Noseworthy and Caitlin Hart from Chicago. Leviticus is the narrator.
The production will include music composed by Darleen Mitchell, a University of Nebraska at Kearney music professor, and performed by Third Chair players Rebecca Van de Bogart, Ed Love, Donna Carnes, Tracy Sands, Joseph Holmquist and Sheri Ericksen.
Mitchell said she’s spent the past year working on the score and incorporated German songs from the era to “give it a flavor of place and time.”
“The train is a metaphor for buried memories, which is why I used music of remembrance,” she said.
The big key to bringing “The Train” to the stage has been Leviticus, Hart said. He’s been instrumental and inspirational.
“He is a Holocaust survivor who has found his voice,” she said. “This is about finding your voice and not being a bystander and about how we stay active in the world we are in socially. It’s interesting.”
Reach Jeff Korbelik at 473-7213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.