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A swarm of decorated paper butterflies has reached the College of Southern Maryland for a show that participants are calling a “roller coaster of emotions.”

“I Never Saw Another Butterfly” is a production about the Holocaust. In addition to the show, the lobby of the theater has been transformed into a miniature Holocaust museum with hand-decorated butterflies displayed throughout the fine arts center representing the 15,000 children who passed through the Terezin concentration camp in then-Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust.

If you go

The College of Southern Maryland Theatre Company will present Celeste Raspanti’s “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” at 8 p.m. Feb. 15-16 and Feb. 21-23 at the College of Southern Maryland’s La Plata campus, Fine Arts Center, 8730 Mitchell Road.

Produced by special arrangement with the Dramatic Publishing Co., “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” tells the true story of more than 15,000 Jewish children who passed through Terezin and the 100 who were still alive when Terezin was liberated at the end of World War II. One of the survivors, Raja, taught the children when there was nothing to teach with, giving them hope when there was little reason for hope and creating a little world of laughter, flowers and butterflies behind the barbed wire.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors, military with ID and youth in high school and younger. Email BxOffc@csmd.edu, call 301-934-7828 or go to www.csmd.edu/Arts.

The theater department reached out to the community to support the show by decorating a butterfly and sending it in.

As of last week, the department has received more than 7,000 butterflies.

“It’s insane. I honestly didn’t think we would get as many as we did,” said Alex LaClaire, 23, who will be running projectors for the show.

According to information provided by CSM, when Terezin was liberated, only 100 of the children survived. “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” tells the true story of the children. Butterflies became a symbol of defiance, making it possible for them to live on and play happily while waiting to be transported.

LaClaire said the audience can expect a “roller coaster of emotions” during the show.

“It’s a very emotionally driven show, especially for the actors themselves,” he said.

Kaylin Beach, 17, plays one of the children at Terezin and said the audience can expect the show to “take your breath away.”

Technical director Keith Hight said this is the type of show where he would like to see the audience step away not just saying they saw a great show, but really thinking about what happened.

He said the cast has come together for this show and “gelled like we’ve been together for years.”

Those involved got an opportunity to meet the son of two Holocaust survivors, one of whom was at Terezin, Hight said.

He said it was great for the cast to sit down and hear stories of that time and learn about the history.

Aside from learning about history, Hight and the cast and crew learned about the power of community as those involved in the play and in theater at the school pinned up thousands of butterflies sent in from schools, clubs, organizations and elsewhere.

Some butterflies were colored with crayons and markers, and some were decorated with craft supplies.

One cast member pointed out that someone wrote out a poem from the play within a butterfly’s wings.

Hight said he liked the creativity involved; some stepped outside the box and created butterflies out of ribbon and string rather than using the paper template.

“It was really nice to see the community come out and be a part of preproduction,” Hight said.

Those placing butterflies on the walls did so with care; Hight reminded everyone last week the butterflies represented people.

“I Never Saw Another Butterfly” opened Thursday night and will be performed at 8 p.m. Feb. 15 and 16 and Feb. 21, 22 and 23 at CSM’s La Plata campus.

gphillips@somdnews.com