In Arts, CHA Community, Upper School

“Powerful.” “Moving.” ”Emotional.”
“A story that needs to be told and not forgotten.”

Our 2019 upper school play, And a Child Shall Lead, has received favorable reviews for its powerful message and excellent execution.

After Friday night’s show, Chicago Theater Critic Frank Meccia commented, “I’ve watched a lot of theater in my life. And this was on par with the best of all the non-equity theaters in Chicago… I normally don’t review high school or college shows, because there are so many, but this one is special. Everything from the sets, to the costume, to the blocking and acting, was just excellent!” He gave a highly favorable review on WCPT 820AM radio show “Around the Town Chicago”, and further interviewed the cast and crew for the Comcast Community Channel.

Listen to Frank Meccia’s Radio Review of And a Child Shall Lead on WCPT 820AM here, and read an article from local reporter Alexa Burnell below.

“Spring Play portrays the ability to triumph over evil”

By Alexa Burnell, as published in The Winnetka Current on April 6, 2019

When director Susan Baliles, of Christian Heritage Academy in Northfield, pondered which production to select for the spring play, she did what she always does and asked God for his direction, leading her to “And a Child Shall Lead,” a heroic and true story of children coming of age in Terezin — a Jewish city established by the Nazis, near Prague.

The production ran March 8-9, entertaining and inspiring the audience all at the same time, while reassuring Baliles, that the production was the right choice.

“There are many stories about the Holocaust, but what struck me about ‘And a Child Shall Lead’ is the theme of hope; there is humor infused in the plot, along with joyful song and dance,” Baliles said. “The story reminds all that God gave us the ability to triumph over evil by staying connected to one another and remaining hopeful.”

Like many actors, the cast and crew practiced and rehearsed endlessly, ensuring a believable and moving production. But, along with practicing lines and dance steps, Baliles took the actors outside of the confines of the stage and outside of the comforts of the school. They ventured to the Skokie Holocaust Museum, where they met the last survivor of Terezin, Steen Metz.

Sarah Jaley, of Glenview, portrayed Gabriela Winterova, a 12-year-old Jewish girl living in Terezin. For Jaley, the chance to meet a true survivor was a lesson beyond compare.

“Meeting Mr. Metz was so moving, making me realize that what we were doing on the stage was so much bigger than I originally thought. [Mr. Metz] told us how important it was that the truth about the Holocaust was told to all,” she added. “He pleaded with us to tell at least three people about the story of Terezin, shedding honesty and truth about what really occurred. We realized that through our production we were going beyond just telling three people; we were telling the truth to an entire audience, for multiple nights. From this experience, I’ve learned how the arts are not just for entertainment; the stage is also a place where the truth can be told.”

Student music director Gabrielle Alava, a senior from Northbrook, was given the responsibility of selecting the music for the production. Based on her research, she discovered that many Jewish musicians were sent to Terezin, writing songs that revealed all they endured.

“Many of the songs selected for the production come from Jewish musicians, many of whom spent time in Terezin. The lyrics express themes with the most important being how these people held on to their humanity at a time when they weren’t being treated like humans at all,” Alava said.

For Caroline Chung, of Gurnee, a sophomore who played 11-year-old Aleena Lederova, the experience of being involved in “And a Child Shall Lead” showed her the power of hope.

“These children didn’t give in to the hate, in fact, they discovered friendship, love and family. They did not allow fear to take over, teaching us all that something so beautiful can come from something so ugly,” Chung said.

Ransom Coffeen, of Deerfield, a junior who played 15-year-old Miroslav Weiss, explained that along with gaining a better understanding of historical events, he gained insight into human behavior too.

“It’s easy to wonder, ‘Why didn’t these people fight back against the Nazis?’ But, like most things, the answer to this question is complicated,” Coffeen said. “What we learned is that although they wouldn’t or couldn’t fight back physically, they did so with their hearts, minds and spirt. They stayed committed to becoming a family within Terezin, they recorded and wrote down their experiences to tell future generations the truth; what they couldn’t resist with their bodies, they resisted with their minds.”