Written by Lyn Dobrin Thursday, 17 July 2014 00:00
Late last spring, 14 Long Island students from Friends Academy and Portledge School journeyed to Normandy and joined with students from Germany and France to perform a peace play, marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day. This small troupe of high school students are bent on slowly healing emotional WWII rifts between the three nations of France, Germany and America — and, perhaps, charting a course for future peace and reconciliation throughout the world.
The play, in English, French and German, was performed throughout the region: on Utah Beach and in a museum there, in a theater in Cherbourg, along a waterway in one village and in the town square of Sainte-Mère-Église (the first town liberated by the Allies during WWII and a sister city to Locust Valley). The piece was written by French director Laurence Bohec and ratified by the French government as part of its official 70th D-Day anniversary activities.
In mid-October, 12 Friends Academy students — seniors Ryan Dobrin (Westbury), Carina Goebelbecker (Manhasset), Parker Huseby (Locust Valley), Tolu Ojo (Amityville) and Cissy Shi (Syosset); juniors
Alex Nagel (Laurel Hollow), Julia Newitt (Bayville) and Morgan Rielly (Plandome); sophomores Peter Bahr (Laurel Hollow), Owen Collier (Glen Cove), Olivia Fine (Centerport) and Will Schneider (Bayville); and four Portledge students — junior Koorosh Leibowitz (Glen Cove), sophomore Patrice Narasimhan (Lattingtown) and freshmen Caroline Kriegstein (Huntington) and Megan Page (Glen Cove) — began been rehearsing a the play.
“Putting aside differences is at the heart of reconciliation,” said Portledge World Languages & Cultures Department Head Dr. Elizabeth Atkins, “and these young people represent not just Locust Valley and America, but the youth who will inherit the conflicts of this world.”
Consisting of two plays, the Normandy Peace Project follows a group of students from Germany, France and America in the play, “Et si on bâtissait la paix ensemble…” (“And if we built peace together…”), who return to Normandy — the place where their grandparents fought — as they attempt to unravel the horrors of the war and search for reconciliation. The second production, “The Men of Utah Beach,” shares the voice of the soldier as it recalls the historic arrival of French and American soldiers on the Normandy beaches.
“It is important for everyone to know what happened during WWII and how its events have stuck with us up until now,” explained Portledge’s Narasimhan. “I think the idea of having this play is very creative, for it not only brings together the youth of three countries that were at the heart of the conflict, it also sends a powerful message that will resonate with those who see it because it comes from us.”
According to Bohec, writing the play in three languages was meant to reunite those three countries, which played a fundamental role in the second World War, and then together deliver a message of peace and love. “It’s about healing the wounds from history and about facing the past by showing that art can cross the barriers of languages and borders,” said Bohec. “It is also about sharing the conviction that peace can only happen by working together for a better and more just world,” she added.