"Where’s my challah? Get the challah!” Sujoy Spencer waved frantically backstage, speaking in hushed tones so she wouldn’t disturb the actors onstage at Supai Middle School’s theater.
Joella Johnson, 13, grabbed the prop, a lacquered braided loaf of bread, and passed it to her.
A few months back, Johnson and her drama classmates didn’t know much about Jewish culture. Now, they’ve spoken to a rabbi and meticulously researched the lives of children their own ages who died in Nazi concentration camps during WWII.
It was all in preparation of performing “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” today, a play about children living in the Terezin camp in Czechoslovakia.
Students created and decorated the stage with memory stones that bear names and ages of Holocaust victims, in memory of the more than 3,000 children who perished there, Spencer said.
Theater class hasn’t even been an option at Supai for years due to budget cuts, said Katy Cavanaugh, executive director for middle schools.
But due to increasing enrollment, she said, the district has been able to increase program offerings and bring some courses back.
Recently added classes like statistical analysis in sports, journalism and multicultural studies have proven popular and are expanding.
Four Scottsdale district middle schools will offer drama and theater next year.
“Our goal with all of these electives is the integration of reading, writing, math, science and social studies standards and putting them in real-life practice,” Cavanaugh said. “For example, researching history through (drama class). It’s a very relevant way to match their needs.”
Johnson said drama class has helped her learn history, especially through researching her character.
“We learned a lot about Jewish culture and really, most of the class didn’t know about the Holocaust. It was kind of shocking because I had no idea this went on,” she said.
This semester, she has been researching Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust on Web sites in her spare time.
Azzy Blackmore, 14, was researching her character, a teacher named Irena Synkova, when she found the exact number that was tattooed on Synkova’s body in the camp.
She used a black marker to copy the six digits on her forearm as part of her costume.
This play has a much heavier theme than the one last semester’s class chose, Spencer said.
But the students chose it themselves, said Alex Baldwin, 12, because “it has a meaning to it.”
The play has helped them to respect other people’s religions, and to realize that they should be grateful for their freedom, said Lauren Soto, 13.
If you go
What: “I Never Saw Another
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Supai Middle School auditorium, 6720 E. Continental Road