David Meyers is an actor and playwright based in Los Angeles and New York. As a writer, his plays have been produced and read off-Broadway, and at regional theatres across the country, and he has been published by Applause, Smith and Kraus, and more. As an actor, he has appeared on TV, film, and commercials, and recently spent the summer performing at the Wellfleet Harbor Actor’s Theater. He previously worked in the White House and U.S. Senate.
When did you first learn about the Scholls and the White Rose? What made you decide to write this play?
I first learned about Sophie Scholl and The White Rose four years ago in a small clipping in a newspaper. I had never heard the story before — despite knowing a lot about the era. I thought, “this is incredible. How could a group of young students have been so brave and selfless, and how come I haven’t heard of this story before?
I researched the story a little bit, and immediately knew it was one that I had to tell. It’s easy for us in America to talk about freedom, and to call for freedom at home and for people abroad. But would we be truly willing to risk our lives — or go to jail for years — to fight for it? (In Russia, for example, you can be jailed for years for just attending a single protest — let alone all the countries that openly murder political opponents — no matter how young, small, or inconsequential).
I knew that the world needed to hear this story now. Throughout every step of the process, it’s been a joy to help spread Sophie’s story because i believed in it so much. I was never once deterred in the process of writing the play or getting it produced because I felt so strongly and passionately about preserving the memory of Sophie and The White Rose, and making the story come alive for a new generation.
Many of the articles we’ve read about the White Rose focus on “Hans Scholl and his sister, Sophie”. How did you decide to write this play mainly from Sophie’s experience?
I think Sophie’s gender is a really important part of “We Will Not Be Silent,” and it’s something that I have strengthened and that we have focused on in the New Rep production. It is true that Hans Scholl founded the White Rose with some of his male friends (as the play acknowledges). But once Sophie found out, she became an active and ardent participant — completely equal to her brother and all the others.
Sophie was the only female among the core group of The White Rose, in an era when women were definitely not treated as equals. It would have been extremely easy for her to ignore what was happening, but she refused. It’s also possible that had she begged for clemency, she might have been spared or treated differently because she was a woman. But she refused to do so.
Finally, the image of a young, truly pure-hearted woman opposing the overwhelming Nazi menace is a very powerful symbol about how every single person can make a difference, and challenge and impact the system. Eighty years later, Sophie is still remembered. Her life mattered — just as much as the members and leaders of the Nazi Party.
Can you tell us a little about your research process?
I initially wrote the play with very little research, just conjuring what would drive someone like Sophie to oppose the Nazi regime so publicly — even though she knew that the punishment would be death. I also conceived the central idea of the play (which I don’t want to give away here) as a theatrical device, and later found out that it was true! (Or rather, it was alleged to have been true by the son of Sophie’s interrogator — who I fictionalized in my play).
As people started workshopping and then producing the play, my research got more intense to flesh out both the period and era, as well as the character of Sophie herself. For this production at New Rep, I went back and re-read Sophie’s diaries and letters for more insight. I was shocked to find the Sophie that I wrote reflected so many of Sophie’s actual thoughts and statements. Sometimes, I guess, a writer’s intuition is right!
What excites you about having We Will Not Be Silent produced at New Rep?
I am SO excited to share this story with your audiences. I’ve frequently said I’d want this play to get produced as many times as possible if my name was removed from it, and I never received any credit, etc. This is a story that the world must hear, and that must be re-told over and over.
The New Rep production has also been a joy, because I’ve been able to work with Jim Petosa — whose talent, generosity, and intelligence have made the process even more special. I am so honored to play a tiny role in telling Sophie’s story — and I am so honored and grateful that New Rep is joining me in that process. David