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Here There Are Blueberries

An important and moving night at the theater.

This is a very moving play, based on a real story. Here There are Blueberries is about a mysterious album of never-before-seen Nazi-era photographs which arrived on the desk of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum archivist, Rebecca Erbelding. As she and her team of archivists begin to unravel the shocking story behind the images, the existence of the album soon makes headlines around the world. 

Amazingly, when the headlines reached Germany, a businessman saw some of the pictures from the album online, and recognized his own grandfather in the photos. He then begins a personal journey of discovery leading him to a reckoning of his family’s past and his country’s history. The play tells the story of these photographs and the light they shed on the Nazis who ran the concentration camp. The photographs for the first time, put a focus on the perpetrators of the Holocaust. They make us think about our own humanity.

These photographs were taken in Auschwitz. It was the first time a collection of pictures of those who ran the concentration camp surfaced. They were in an album owned by Karl Höcker, the assistant to the commandant of Auschwitz.  When they came into the hands of the Holocaust Museum, the director of the museum wasn’t sure if they should be displayed. The rational for that was the museum was meant to remember and honor those who were killed, not focus on their murderers. But Rebecca Erbelding, the archivist who first saw them, convinced those in charge how important it was for people to see these pictures. There was actually a picture of Josef Rudolf Mengele, also known as the Angel of Death, smiling for the camera in the camp.

Here There Are Blueberrue
Here There Are Blueberries Cast  Photo by DJ Corey Photography

The play is incredibly moving in so many ways. For me what added to it was my father’s parents had been gassed in Auschwitz. To see the smiling faces of the people who did that to them was difficult.  

But it is important for people to see these everyday looking people, from everyday backgrounds, and realize they could become murderers. The young women who answered the phones, and kept records of those gassed, as if they were just regular secretaries. We must never forget this if we are to try to prevent it from happening again. Yet today, with the rise of anti-Semitism and White Supremacists, in our minds we must know it can. 

The play is written by Moises Kaufman and Amanda Gronich and directed by Moises Kaufman.  The cast of eight is absolutely superb. Elizabeth Stahlmann is moving as she narrates most of the story as Rebecca Erbelding. She and the entire cast play more than one role. Their main roles include: Scott Barrow as Karl Höcker; Nemuna Ceesay as Charlotte Schünzel; Kathleen Chalfant as Judy Cohen; Mabaud Ebrahimzadeh as Tilman Taube; Erika Rose as Melita Maschmann; Charlie Thurston as Rainer Höss; and Grant James Varjas as Peter Wirths. 

The creative team includes the great work of Projection Designer, David Bengali; Scenic Designer, Derek McLane; Costume Designer, Dede Ayite; Lighting Designer, David Lander and Sound Designer, Bobby McElver.

Here There are Blueberries is an important and moving night at the theater, one which I urge you to see. It will be at Harman Hall, Shakespeare Theatre, through May 28th. Tickets are going fast.