PITTSBURG — The Pittsburg High School all school play opens Thursday, and the production of “Letters to Sala” shows viewers an often overlooked part of history.
The play tells the story of Sala, a young Polish girl who volunteers to take her sister’s place at a forced labor camp during World War II. Sala hides and saves over 350 letters from family and friends during a five year stay at seven different Nazi labor camps.
The setting of the play itself juxtaposes the life of a young Sala, played by Mckenna Shaw, in the labor camps, and an older Sala, played by Cassie Hurt-McLarty, who reveals the letters to her daughter and granddaughters in early 2000s New York City.
Director Greg Shaw said the stories are part of why he picked “Letters to Sala” for the fall production.
“There’s just great stories in this piece, and it is a relatively new play,” Shaw said. “We know all about the concentration camps during World War II, but there’s nothing really out there about the labor camps.”
Shaw said he also tries to pick productions that will play to the strengths of his student actors. He said he liked “Letters to Sala” because it is a strong women's piece.
“There are some really strong young ladies in this program,” Shaw said. “I thought his would make a great challenge for them.”
The young actresses rose to the challenge. Mckenna Shaw and Hurt-McLarty deliver powerful performances and really put their emotions into their somber characters. Another standout is Gracie Terry as Sala’s sister Raizel, although the entire cast does a great job.
One aspect which is very impressive is the cast’s use of accents. Shaw said he usually stays away from using accents in his program, but the group decided to try them for this play.
The result is a pleasant surprise. The accents are very well done, not overbearing and help bring the characters to life.
“We didn’t want to go to heavy into accents,” Shaw said. “But the students have worked really hard on their dialects and how they speak.”
The students have worked on even more to get ready for opening night. Shaw said he has 19 students on stage and 15 backstage. The students work with lights, sound and even helped build sets. They also did the costuming for this particular play.
The show runs October 13 through 15, with performances at 7 p.m. each night in the Pittsburg High School auditorium.
Tickets are $5 for students, $7 for adults, and are available at the door.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.