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Bilingual Students in Brooklyn Pay Homage to Refugees

French theater troupe L’Oiseau Bleu will be supporting refugees all over the world by performing a play with the students at the Boerum Hill School for International Studies in Brooklyn on June 6 and 17, 2017.

May 13, 1939. Some 937 German Jews boarded the Saint-Louis ocean liner in Hamburg. The passengers were fleeing Nazism and the looming threat of war, and set a course for Cuba. But upon arriving in Havana, the authorities refused them asylum. They were met with the same rejection in the United States and Canada, and were forced to make the grueling trip back to Europe where almost a quarter of them died in concentration camps.

Inspired by this tragedy, the French theater troupe L’Oiseau Bleu has worked with 23 students between the ages of 12 and 13 at the School for International Studies, a public, bilingual institution in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. Together they have created a French play entitled Alertez ! (Alert!) about refugees. “We wanted to use this play to show the real and often tragic consequences of refusing to welcome refugees,” says Stéphanie Fribourg, founder of the troupe and director of the play. “The fate of refugees is a very current theme. We are experiencing the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II, and we must not repeat the mistakes of the past.”

The play was presented at the Première Scène theatre festival at the Lycée Français in New York last January, and won the Special Jury Prize. “The play opens on a sinking makeshift raft whose passengers are drowning. The audience had tears in their eyes,” says Stéphanie Fribourg. “Alertez ! is a call for peace which moves audiences and makes them think.”

The play will be performed on Tuesday, June 6, at Brooklyn Borough Hall at 6 pm, and again on Saturday, June 17, in Washington Square Park at 2 pm. The money raised on June 17 will be donated to the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid charity. The young actors will also lead discussions with the audience on the theme of child refugees after the performance.