Olympia Family Theater's production of “Number the Stars.” Image courtesy of the theater.
A moving stage production of “Number the Stars,” adapted from the Newbery-Award-winning book by Lois Lowry, is on stage now at Olympia Family Theater. The story was adapted by Dr. Douglas W. Larche and the show is directed by Samantha Chandler. It runs through Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020.
Set in Copenhagen in 1943, the story follows the young and courageous Annemarie as she and her family face uncertainty and danger. They are trying to help their friend Ellen escape the Nazis. The story unfolds on the streets of occupied Denmark and across the sea, where Jewish families, including Ellen’s, find safety in Sweden.
For those of us who read “Number the Stars” in school — and even those who didn't — this play is a great reminder of why the 1989 book remains a best-seller. As generations get further removed from the Holocaust and what happened to Jews during World War II, stories such as this play an essential role in providing important historical context and education.
While recommended for ages 6 and older, the production is especially poignant for older kids who may recognize some parallels with events happening in this day and age. As my 14-year-old pointed out, “There are many tensions in the world today, too.”
For a heavy-hitter like “Number the Stars,” with its intense scenes such as Nazi interrogation, loss of loved ones and broken-apart families, the cast does an excellent job of balancing tough topics with heart and humor. Annemarie’s little sister Kirstie provides just the right amount of comic relief with her innocence and sassy antics. Lessons of courage, empathy and resistance against the tyranny of hate shine through.
Olympia Family Theater is an intimate setting, so the stage and set are thoughtfully designed. The detailed and moody cityscape painted in the background helps set the tone, and is the result of many hours of work by volunteers. Clever engineering by the stage crew helps the scenes shift smoothly in the second act.
Parents should know
Run-time is 80 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission, when families can grab snacks or enter the fundraiser raffle to win play-related items, such as the original promotional papercut by local artist Nikki McClure.
One of my favorite things about Olympia Family Theater productions is the accompanying educational components. Tucked into the program is an activity page with a word search, topical reading suggestions, facts about Denmark, facts about the Star of David and more.
After the play, my family and I went for dessert and continued our conversation based on prompts from the activity page, such as “Children are participants in history and war affects them, too. Are there things going on in the world that you are affected by right now?”
There’s also an educational display in the lobby with a flip book that dives deeper into the content of the play, with newspaper clippings and other facts.
The production’s sensory elements are not overwhelming, aside from a couple of scenes with raised voices and a recording of barking dogs. All shows are wheelchair-accessible.
If you go...
When: “Number the Stars” plays through Sunday, Feb. 16., with shows on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Where: Olympia Family Theater, 612 4th Ave. E., Olympia
Tickets: Buy online or in person at the box office. Tickets cost $15–$20.
Pay-what-you-can night: Thursday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m. (no online sales; cash or check at box office starting at noon the day of the show)
Run time: 80 minutes, one 15-minute intermission
Age recommendation: The content of the show is suitable for all ages 6 and older, but may be of more interest to an older audience.
Parking: Street parking is free on evenings and weekends.
Further opportunity to learn about the Holocaust: Seattle's Holocaust Center for Humanity is an amazing local resource connecting modern life in Seattle to the Holocaust in ways students can access. Field trips for school groups are available, and teachers from across the state can check out teaching trunks for their classes.