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Armed with words, faith and courage

Taylor theatre presents the White Rose martyrs

(L to R) Members of the White Rose, sophomores Josiah Griener and Brandt Maina and senior John Broda, prepare for rebellion. (Photograph by Ellie Bookmyer)

(L to R) Members of the White Rose, sophomores Josiah Griener and Brandt Maina and senior John Broda, prepare for rebellion. (Photograph by Ellie Bookmyer)

By Elizabeth Hartmann | Echo

For the first time ever, the entirety of William Gebby’s new play will be performed for the public. Showing times are tonight, Feb. 17, 23 and 24 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 18 and 25 at 2 p.m.

Amid the fear and terror of World War II (WWII), a small group of German Christian college students fought against Nazism in what later became known as the White Rose resistance. They were only armed with words, faith and courage.

“Why We Must Die So Young” is their story.

“The people who come to see this are the group of people to see something for the first time and who knows where the show could go one day,” said senior Sarah Dodd who plays Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old witty, fiery philosophy student.

The solemn mood of war hangs like a heavy cloud in the air. Shadows ghost along the blood red backdrop of the Nazi flag, and once again, the Taylor Theatre produces a production which is moving, heartfelt and flawlessly executed.

This relatable play is about a group of young college students, Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends, who wrote and produced leaflets to spread around Germany to reveal the cruelty of Hitler and the Nazis. By standing against evil, they risked their lives.

Dodd said “Why We Must Die So Young” is a story about courage, faith and friendship.

Gebby said the play’s message is about following God’s will and fighting evil by standing up for what is right. Gebby believes Christians and non-Christians alike will be moved by this powerful story.

“It is a powerful story about brave young men and women and it ought to put older folks or Christians who are just going through the motions to shame,” Gebby said. “I’m hoping it inspires us to stand up and handle the forces of evil because they are certainly present in this fallen land of ours.”

Gebby first learned about the White Rose resistance when he took a class on the Holocaust while studying for his masters. In 2010, he wrote the first act of what was to become “Why We Must Die So Young” and with the help of the director, Tracy Manning, assistant professor of theatre arts and dept. co-chair managing & artistic director of theatre, toured it with the Taylor Touring Theatre.

Sigismund von Radeki and Gisela Schertling, played by Senior Ty Kinter and freshman RaeAnne Hankla, talk at a party. (Photograph by Ellie Bookmyer)

Sigismund von Radeki and Gisela Schertling, played by Senior Ty Kinter and freshman RaeAnne Hankla, talk at a party. (Photograph by Ellie Bookmyer)

Eight years later, the production is full length and ready for its debut.

The story has undergone several name changes from “We Will Not Be Silent” for the one act version, to “Grasping the Thorn” and now its final name of “Why We Must Die So Young.”

Gebby believes the new title, which is a line from Sophie Scholl in the play, gives a better summary of the play and is more moving. It encapsulates the courage and faith these young college students had as they rallied against the Nazi regime.

Senior Kenzi Nevins who plays Frau Doktor Mertens, said, “It is special to put it on here in a college setting and all the primary characters were college students who believed that with words they could change the world and they believed that truth was the strongest weapon in existence.”

Nevins hopes the play encourages Christians to stand against the evil they see in the world, because if the Christians don’t resist it, who will? She said anyone can make a difference no matter how unimportant or small they might feel.

The typewriter keys click and ominous drums rumble as these young students use their individual talents and interests to help spread the truth and defeat the evil surrounding them.

“It is so hard to hear a story like this and not want to take action in your own life,” Dodd said. “I want students at Taylor to come see this and be challenged by faith and words and the power behind words and in that understand how relevant it really is.”

It is impossible not to be moved and inspired by this memorable production and beautiful message.

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