Ovation Theatre Company kicks off the 2020 season with a unique production featuring a small cast of youth actors taking on a powerful story.

The company presents "And a Child Shall Lead" with performances Friday, Jan. 31, and Saturday, Feb. 1, 7 p.m. at Granite State Arts Academy, 19 Keewaydin Drive in Salem.

The show is a true story of children coming of age in Terezin, the "Jewish" city established by the Nazi regime near Prague as a way station before arriving at the death camps. The children use their determination and creativity to build lives filled with hope and beauty by studying, playing, making art and writing in an underground newspaper, all done with the perils and dangers of the time surrounding their lives.

The shows are performed on the weekend following International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the ultimate destination of those held at Terezin.

"It's a very powerful story," said show director Tim Gore. "The emotion is so raw because the events that happen to the characters in the story happened in real life to people not much different than the actors themselves."

The shows are unique as they involve youth actors playing the young characters — only eight characters with none older than 15.

Gore said he has done research to prepare himself and his young cast for the intense plot. He also worked to gain knowledge of Terezin and the poetry, art and underground newspaper that are featured in the production. Gore also used his research to create a resource guide for local teachers who may want to attend a student matinee performance.

Ovation also connected with the southern New Hampshire Jewish community, with opportunities to rehearse at Etz Hayim Synogogue in Derry with the support of the synagogue's Rabbi Peter Levy and the board of directors, Gore said. Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett of Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua also supported the production.

In addition to Gore and stage manager Betsy Brown, both of Londonderry, the cast of "And a Child Shall Lead" includes Sawyer Broderick of Hooksett; Cailean Anderson of Hudson; Michaela Horan of Londonderry; Martin Moskowitz of Windham; and Landon Sprague, Luke Thibodeau, Mabel Backman and Paige Lang, all of Hampstead.

Tickets are $12 for adults/$10 for students and are available at ovationtc.com. For information about the student matinee, email to ovationtc@gmail.com.

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