Original Play By REL Teacher Opens At Tyler Civic Theatre
By STEWART SMITH
"The Bloodline," an original play by Robert E. Lee High School theater teacher Michael Ward, will begin its second performance tonight at Tyler Civic Theatre Center.
Performed by the Vanguard Players, a collection of Tyler Junior College alumnus and students, the play tells the story of a husband and wife as they attempt to reconcile the revelations that are discovered about their families' heritage.
Written by Ward several years ago (it won top honors at the 2010 TCTC New Plays Festival), the play is set across two time periods, one in modern times, the other in 1944 in Auschwitz. In 1996, Jeremy (Travis J. Fant) and Rachel (Bridie Marie Corbett) are preparing to be married. Rachel, a Jewish genealogist, decides to trace her fiance's family tree as a wedding present as he knows little of his family's history. However, as she researches Jeremy's past, she soon learns that his grandfather was a doctor at the Auschwitz concentration camp where her grandmother was held captive.
"It's a time that we've heard a lot about. There have been lots of movies and lots of books and things like that, but I don't know that anyone has told a story like this from this perspective," Ward said.
Ward said he was inspired by the real life story of Nazi SS Commander Heinrich Himmler's granddaughter's failed marriage to her Jewish husband.
"There was a lot of research, because I wanted to stay true to what was really going on during the time of Auschwitz," Ward said. "I also wanted to bring out the fact that there were other people persecuted other than Jews during the Holocaust. There is a character who is gay, he's the one that is being frozen. It talks about the gypsies being targets of the Nazis."
The play contains scenes of camp prisoners being essentially tortured via medical experiments by the Nazi doctors, something Ward said was emotionally challenging to write.
"The writing process was at times very difficult, but sometimes it just really flowed," he said. "I workshopped it a couple years ago and I think what's really cool about this play is that it's still evolving. I'll make changes and the actors are really great about taking those and running with it. I don't feel like I'm done with it. The more I see it and the more we work it and we're able to experiment."
Due to the intense nature of the content, Ward recommends that young children not attend the production.
"The Bloodline" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. at Tyler Civic Theatre Center. Admission is $10 per person. Additional performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 903-592-0561, or visit www.tylercivictheatre.com