PATRIOT LEDGER.com – Many high school students know the thrill of acting in plays, but few the excitement of seeing their original work performed in a commercial theater. Having written half a dozen plays since freshman year, Scituate High senior Alex Moon will take audiences on a compelling journey when The Company Theatre presents his World War II drama about Hitler youth cadets fighting guerilla warfare against the Russians.
“The Werewolves,” named after the actual sabotage units, will be performed tomorrow and Saturday by The Academy of The Company Theatre Conservatory in Norwell.
“It’s exciting because this production is all I’ve ever wanted for the show,” said Moon. “I feel great about the text, the actors and all the resources of the theater. This will be the truest version.”
Since “The Werewolves” was performed last summer At Manhattan Repertory Theater, Moon has worked with The Company Theatre artistic director Zoe Bradford and director Kevin Mark Kline to go through the script “line by line to make it more clear in terms of what I’m trying to say,” he said. For the first time, the production has video projections and lighting and sound designed specifically to orient the story in time and place. In its earliest form last year, it had staged readings in Easton and Bridgewater, after it won the 2016 New Works Contest of Artists from Suburbia, which promotes new works on the South Shore.
Moon wrote the play in 2016, after he came across a blurb about the Werewolves and then read wider in memoirs and history.
“I thought this story isn’t that well known, and it’s tragic and human and relevant today,” he said. “The way the Nazis indoctrinated and treated these boys shows the horror and the cruelty not just toward Jews and people on the outside, but toward their own people.”
A history buff, Moon raises profound questions in his intelligent, suspenseful and moving drama whose sophistication is surprising for an 18-year-old. In a 90-minute work without intermission, he tells the story of eight German youth, ages 14-16, in 1945, as they train to be fighters, go on sabotage missions, and cope with defeat. He manages a complicated cast of characters, social dynamics, scenes and historic details deftly and convincingly, with unexpected twists and turns. Without preaching, Moon explores when self-sacrifice is worthwhile, the responsibility of leaders to present the truth, and whether someone can act reprehensibly and still elicit sympathy.
“I hope audiences walk away thinking about what is the price of nationaIism and glorifying violence?” Moon said. “And what does it take to be a good leader, and what do we sacrifice in war or peace when we don’t let children be children?”
As told by Moon, a cruel SS officer and the dominant youth, Hans Wulf, use intimidation, group pressure and violence to convince the vulnerable cadets that their honor depends on their willingness to sacrifice their lives to destroy an “inhuman” enemy, even when the prospect of victory was dim. Until Heinrich Himmler and Hans Adolf-Prützmann recruited them to be Werewolves in 1944, the Hitler Youth cadets showed their dedication to the Third Reich in civil actions, such as parades and rallies.
“The more I learned, the more surprised I was about how futile and inefficient the whole program was,” he said. “As soon as they were able to send the kids into the field, the war was essentially over and they were left to fend for themselves.”
As Moon has developed his talent, he has turned his imagination to a wide range of stories and received encouraging recognition. “The Confession” is a short Monty Python-style farce about prisoners during the Spanish Inquisition, which the Madlab Theatre of Columbus, Ohio is presenting this month. “Les Nuls,” a satire about the French Revolution, was commissioned and presented as a workshop by Artists From Suburbia last year. And this year, “The Wreck of Silence,” which uses American Sign Language to tell a tale about a British soldier who becomes deaf and stranded on an island, was awarded for Innovative Excellence by the Massachusetts Thespian Society and performed by the Scituate High Drama Club.
Always an avid reader and encouraged to express himself by his parents, a financial advisor and elementary school teacher, Moon credits The Academy of the Company Theatre with shaping him as an actor, director and playwright since he became involved at age 13.
“I’ve had some great mentors and experiences,” said Moon, who soon will be on stage as the baker in his high school production of “Into the Woods” and will study play writing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts this fall. “I’m just really thankful there is a community that wants to support new works and artists and take a chance on me. I hope people come to see the play and enjoy it.”
By Jody Feinberg, photos by Zoe Bradford