‘Signs of Life’: An interview with Brennan Dougherty

This fall, a show rich in music, history and spirit is arriving at the Zacek McVay Theater at Victory Gardens Theater. “Signs of Life” explores an astounding and largely unknown story that occurred during the time of the Holocaust as the Nazi regime attempted to beautify their atrocities.

The DePaulia had the unique privilege to speak with 13-year-old actor, Brennan Dougherty. Though he is young, his wisdom and poise exceed his years. He has taken on a character named Wolfie Schumann within the show.

“It is a musical about the Holocaust which is taking place in Theresienstadt at a (ghetto/transit) camp,” Dougherty said. “It’s the story of when the Red Cross comes to inspect the concentration camp and how (the Nazis) try to beautify it and make it look nice for the Red Cross.”   

The monstrosity of the Holocaust is amplified when these facets of its history are brought to life, and as Dougherty spoke he demonstrated an impressive awareness of this. He went on to describe the character that he portrays within the production.

“I am a young boy named Wolfie,” Dougherty said. “He and his sister and his grandfather are sent to the camps. He tries to stay optimistic but I don’t think he is really sure what’s happening. He is helping his sister hide paintings about the truth about what is really happening there and how it is not as pretty as they are trying to make it seem.”

The world of successful acting is one that is not easy to break into though, impressively, Dougherty has managed it at a very young age.

“It started with the community theater right around our house,” Dougherty said. “Then my sister joined me in theater and she started doing professional shows and I was like, ‘Hey, that looks fun!’ I started local theater and I thought I should try professional theater so I auditioned for Oliver at Drury Lane and then one thing led to another.”

Dougherty cherishes the role that performing plays within his life and his newest undertaking has pushed it to new levels.

“I love doing theater