World War II hero subject of Folsom play

By: Eileen Wilson, Telegraph Correspondent
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What: “The Beams are Creaking”
When:  March 29-April 14, Friday through Sunday. Check website for show times.
Where:  Free Fall Stage, 800 Reading St., Folsom
Info:  $15 general, $12 senior, student, military and SARTA, $7 kids 11 and under. Purchase tickets online, or cash only at the door

I need a hero. In today’s times, who doesn’t? Director Alicia McNeill needs a hero too, and she has set her sights on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the most heroic, yet lesser known figures of World War II.

A Sacramento native who studied theater at both UC Irvine and San Francisco State, McNeill has an impressive theatrical resume, which includes work with Music Circus and Sacramento Opera Company. She has been involved with all elements of theater, from acting to props design to costuming.

Her newest feat will be the culmination of years of experience when she brings Bonhoeffer’s story to life in “The Beams are Creaking.”

She couldn’t be more excited.

“The play was DeeDee’s idea (Deanne Eldridge, Free Fall’s executive director). She has always wanted to do a play about Dietrich,” McNeill said. “The play is very powerful. It’s a story with heavy subject matter, but it’s so accessible to everyone, and it’s really a story of perseverance.”

Bonhoeffer was a fascinating historical figure. He was a German Lutheran pastor, a dissident, and an anti-Nazi citizen who’s writings about Christianity have become well known and influential. But he is probably most well known for his resistance to Nazi dictatorship.

Eldridge thinks the play puts what was going on in World War II Germany in perspective.

“Hitler took away the rights of all Germans, not just the rights of the Jews,” she said. “It didn’t take that many people to do what Hitler did. The German people were either coerced or threatened in to compliance. People were pulled into something that they never wanted to be involved in. This play shows the reality of the German people at the time.”

When Hitler’s atrocities against the German populace became evident, Bonhoeffer felt that he didn’t have any choice but to attempt to assassinate the dictator.

According to McNeill, Bonhoeffer was certain religion could save Germany.

“The man was very powerful and affected everyone in a positive way,” she said. “Even his ultimate jailers loved Dietrich. He affected both jailers and his cellmates, alike. He gave everyone real hope.”

While the storyline may sound intense, McNeill and Eldridge both agree that the story is one of hope. It’s one of triple agents who used Hitler’s own war chest against him to help the resistance.

“I wanted to set this story around Easter,” Eldridge said. “It’s around Easter time that people are interested in stories that include a religious aspect – though this is certainly not a traditional Easter play.”