Commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War and the 191st birthday of Ulysses S. Grant in the sanctuary of the historic Cranston Memorial Church, 200 Union St., New
Richmond, Ohio, as you engage in the story of one family woven through the events of the Civil War.
On Thursday, April 25, 7:00 p.m., the Falcon Theater Company presents Soldier, Come Home, a play based on historic Civil War Letters of Mary Luke Pringle, her husband Philip W. Pringle, and family members, written 1859-1865. The letters were adapted for the stage by Maine playwright Frank W. Wicks, great grandson of Philip and Mary Pringle.
Soldier, Come Home, described as “poignant and beautiful,” will be directed by Falcon’s Clint Ibele who recently presented Soldier in Newport, Kentucky. Ibele says, “The story touched so many people’s lives. It will be talked about for a long time I am sure.”
To set the mood for the theatrical performance, the renowned musical group Raison D’Etre will begin the program with a set of Civil War tunes. This talented trio is juried and listed among artists in the Kentucky Arts Council’s Performing Arts Directory.
Historic New Richmond and Cranston Memorial Church are proud to offer this event free and open to the public; however, tickets must be requested in advance. Please phone 513-543-9149 to request your tickets. Tickets can be picked up at the Front Street Café in New Richmond or can be held at WILL CALL at the church on the evening of the event.
A reception with the actors will immediately follow the play in the fellowship hall of the church.
The Summit Players Theatre of Bluefield, West Virginia will present six performances of the stirring Civil War Drama, Soldier, Come Home, on April 26-28 and May 3-5, 2013.
The play, directed by Eleanor Kensinger, is based on the letters of Frank W. Wicks’ great-grandparents, Philip and Mary Pringle and other family members, written during the period 1859 to 1865. The western Pennsylvania family was involved in many major Civil War battles, from Antietam to Appomattox.
Kensinger noted, “This is real, and there is a universality that comes from a story like this.” The director of a recent Newport, Kentucky staging says, “The buzz from our January production continues…the story touched so many people’s lives. It will be talked about for a long time I am sure.”
The production will feature Civil War-era music, sung by the newly formed “Bluestone Chorale,” led by well-known Bluefield musical director Don Kensinger. The Summit Players will offer Dinner Theatre on Fridays and Saturdays, April 26, 27, and May 3, 4. Sunday Matinees, April 28 and May 5 are without food service.
Soldier, Come Home is part of the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Festival, Celebrate West Virginia! 150 Wonderful Years!
For more information or to make reservations please call, 304.325.8000. The Summit Players website is www.summitplayers.com.
Falcon teams up with Campbell County Public Library
As part of the Campbell County Public Library’s ongoing exploration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, Falcon Theatre of Newport, Kentucky will be presenting the regional premiere of Soldier, Come Home at the Newport Library Branch on Friday, January 25th at 7:00 PM.
Soldier, Come Home is a radio-style theatrical drama based on letters between Phillip and Mary Pringle written during the Civil War and adapted for the stage by their great-grandson, Frank W. Wicks. The letters paint a vivid picture of a part of the war that is seldom seen…the difficulties families faced in being separated and unable to easily communicate.
Soldier, Come Home is being directed by Clint Ibele and features the talents of Falcon veterans Jay Dallas Benson, Elizabeth Molloy, Jim Bussey, Jeff Surber and Ted Weil. (The actors from the “Soldier, Come Home” Cincinnati/Kentucky production will be interviewed Sunday, January 20th – on”Around Cincinnati” sometime between 7-8 pm. (Eastern time) It’ll air on WVXU which is at 91.7 FM, or you can listen to the streaming audio the night of the show at
Falcon also welcomes musical group Raison D’Etre who will be performing Civil War-era music as part of the evening’s performance.
With American soldiers still currently deployed overseas, this historical account of a very different war brings to life some of the rarely seen hardships of war that are still present today.
Tickets for this event are free of charge but must be reserved in advance as seating is limited. Tickets can be reserved by contacting the library at 859-781-6166 or online at www.cc-pl.org.
From a 19th century needle factory in lower Manhattan to a world-class Civil War museum in Wisconsin, Soldier, Come Home has played ‘em all!
In its ten year history, “Soldier” has played a restored vaudeville theater in the South, a Civil War recruiting center in the North, a country barn in Pennsylvania, and a historic church in Maine where Harriet Beecher Stowe got her inspiration for “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
The very first performance took place May 5, 2002 at Center Stage in Brunswick, Maine, a theater founded by Wicks to develop and produce new plays.
The play created a “buzz” which led to other performances in the area, including one at the Bowdoinham, Maine Town Hall, built in the early 1800’s and used as a meeting place for Civil War soldiers as they marched off to war.
It turned out that Brunswick, Maine was a hot bed of Civil War history. Distinguished son, Joshua Chamberlain – Governor of Maine and President of Bowdoin College – was the undisputed “man of the hour” at the Battle of Gettysburg, chronicled by Brunswick historian, John Pullen. Sharing the same church pew was neighbor,
Harriet Beecher Stowe. It is reported that Stowe was so inspired by a sermon that she ran home and penned the first chapter of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
Soldier, Come Home played there, at the Brunswick First Parish Church, as part of the week-long Chamberlain Days Festival, sponsored by the Pejepscot Historical Society.
Word spread. The cast took to the road, performing at the Ohio Theater in New York City, a reconverted needle factory known for its innovative theater productions. It is said that just before the first production there 30 years ago the cast and crew went down on hands and knees, armed with magnets, pulling decades of dropped pins and needles from the floorboard.
Next stop, Johnstown Pennsylvania for three performances at the 19th century Heritage Discovery Center, organized by cousin Frances Hesselbein. It was here that Wicks’ ancestors lived and wrote the letters that were the basis of Soldier, Come Home. Over 100 relatives flew in from all over the country (and one from England) for the performances and a Saturday night family reunion bash.
The play was chosen for the Penobscot Theatre’s New Play Festival, winning
out over 500 entries. Then, an online internet site, civilwarplay.com was set up to announce “Soldier” to cyberspace. Soon, many friendships were made as well as a more widespread interest.
The GreenMan Theatre in Elmhurst, Illinois mounted a week of performances and then took the play on the road. Other productions took place in Forest Grove, Oregon, the Gardiner, Maine Opera House, a barn theater in McConnellstown, Pennsylvania, and The Gem Theater, a restored vaudeville house in Etowah, Tennessee.
An exciting “first” took place September 22, 2012 in Kenosha, Wisconsin when The Brown-Ullstrop Performing Arts Foundation
sponsored a live Radio Theater Production of “Soldier.” The play was broadcast from Kenosha’s new Civil War Museum on WGTD-HD Public Radio Kenosha-Racine-Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, hosted by director Dr. Steven Brown.
Soldier had its Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati premier on Friday, January 25, 2013, at the Campbell County Library in Newport, Kentucky, co-produced and performed by Newport’s Falcon Theatre Company, directed by Clint Ibele. Next, the play was revived by the Gem Players in Etowah, Tennessee and ran for two more weeks at the historic Gem Theater.
Upcoming performances of Soldier:
April 25 – Historic New Richmond, Ohio – Birthplace of U. S. Grant -performed by the Falcon Theater Company, 7:30 p.m. – as part of Ohio Civil War 150.
April 26 – May 5 – Six performances (dinner theater) by the Summit Theater Company, Bluefield, West Virginia (150th anniversary of West Virginia)
June 29 – Two performances at the Tullahoma, Tennessee Civic Center, 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (150th anniversary commemoration of the Tullahoma Civil War Campaign)
The dramatization is based on historic family Civil War letters and opened at the historic Gem Theater in Etowah, Tennessee on May 18,19, 25, 26 at 7:30 p.m. and May 20 and 27 at 2:30 p.m.
Frank W. Wicks transformed the letters of his great-grandparents, Philip and Mary Pringle, into a play. Mary Pringle wrote to her husband from Armagh, Pennsylvania, while he responded from several major Civil War battle sites, including Antietam, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, the siege of Petersburg, and Appomattox.
Veteran Gem director LaMone Rose decided to direct this particular play “because of the significance of the letters during this most sorrowful and dramatic time in our country’s history.” Rose agrees with the author Wicks on the emotional content and knowledge included in the letters.
Wicks says, “I was struck from the beginning by the emotional content of the letters. They were filled with conflicts, complicated relationships, humor, enormous difficulties and struggles for survival.”
We were a house divided… a country divided…. families divided and friends divided and how were we to put ourselves back together again?” says Rose. Soldier, Come Home does not attempt to answer any questions about the causes and effects of “The War Between the States”. But the simple set, the lighting and the images of the War will take the audience to that time and space as the actors become the family “torn apart”. The five actors have only their voices to convey the agony and destruction that war brings but their voices convey the hope that it will never happen again.
The cast of Soldier, Come Home includes Mary Poteet and James Staton as Mary and Philip Pringle; Tim Poteet and Larry Schiller as their brothers, Dan Luke and Martin Pringle; and Bill Freeman in multiple roles of their fathers, older brother, and family friends. Ruth Sowers is the technical director.
For more information about the Gem Players, call 423-263-3270 or visit the website at www.gemplayers.com.
For those of you considering a production of Soldier, Come Home, I offer the following notes about my concept of the original production of the play and suggestions for a production:
The play was conceived as a “concert.” The image of Pavarotti and Tebaldi walking onto the New York Philharmonic stage comes to mind; he in a tux, she in an evening gown. They carry a score bound in a black binder. It’s a concert version of “La Boheme.” Music. Singing begins. Little by little, they transcend the confines of the concert, establish relationships and become the characters; we see only Mimi and Rodolfo and are caught up emotionally by the music and the singing.
This is the goal I have set for Soldier, Come Home.
Music. Five actors walk onto the stage – men in tuxes and the woman in an evening gown – carrying black binders. They take their places. Music fades, lights up on first actor. Reading begins. Little by little, the actors transcend the confines of the “concert” reading, become the characters and establish relationships. The letters become the dialogue and the conflicts, humor and emotions take over.
The set, backdrop, lights, costumes, furniture and sound, along with the letters, are an integral part of the concept of the play. They work together as a unit.
The set: Black risers or platforms at two or three different levels,
from 10 inches to 3 feet high. Each actor has his or her platform or level. Five dark colored, plain wooden chairs are placed on platforms. A black curtain hangs behind the set.
Minimum lighting: Five front of house lekos – one focused on each actor and each light is on a separate dimmer. Overhead is blue backlight (fresnels) to shape actors but used mainly to give actors enough light by which to read the letters.
Costumes: Tuxes for the men. Evening gown for the woman: simple, fairly dark color, floor length.
Sound: Pre-show music. This is the place for a nod to the
Civil War era. Your choice of period music. As lights dim and play starts, segue to lively Civil War music as cast enters the stage. Fade sound as lights come up on first actor.
However: That said, it is totally up to the director to produce the play in any way he or she envisions it. For example, I just saw an extremely effective production in Kenosha, Wisconsin done simply – in an open room – small platform, no lights, actors in white shirts and black slacks/long black dress with music fading in and out throughout.
Directing the play:
Here are some general notes I find important for performing a play based on letters and creating an exciting, riveting production:
1. Pick up cues. As one letter finishes, the next should start immediately without a second’s pause. Think of it as dialogue, a conversation between characters.
2. Find new thoughts within each letter. Even the shortest letters contain many different thoughts.
3. Create a general sense of urgency throughout the play, even in quiet moments.
4. For the most part, letters are read directly to the audience. It is important that the actors make good eye contact with the audience. Knowing the letters well – even learning them – will help with this.
5. “Build” scenes from letter to letter – the idea is that each letter is more important than the last.
6. The play contains humor – I hope. Look for the humor and try to play it.
“On Friday evening, a couple hundred people gathered in the Sanctuary (of the historic First Parish Church) for the dramatic performance of Soldier, Come Home. The male players were dressed in tuxedoes, as opposed to period costumes, which kept the focus on the letters, and the emotions exuded in them. I very much enjoyed this theater project.”…..Bobby Grenier of the North Lake County Florida Civil War Round Table.
Floor plan for platforms – Soldier, Come Home
The play, directed by Phil Hendricks, opens April 14th, 2011 and runs till April 17th in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War.
The play is a dramatization of the Civil War letters of Mary Luke Pringle, her husband, Philip W. Pringle, family members and friends, from 1859 to 1865, adapted for the stage by Frank W. Wicks, great-grandson of Philip and Mary. The play weaves the story of one family through the events of the Civil War.
“You don’t have to be a Civil War buff to appreciate ‘Soldier, Come Home.’ It’s about family, love, duty, and coping: universal themes for people caught in the maelstrom of war.” – Rita Bailey, Joshua Chamberlain Civil War Round Table, Brunswick, Maine
The letters are from western Pennsylvania and from several major Civil War battle sites, including Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, the siege of Petersburg, and Appomattox.
“On Friday evening, a couple hundred people gathered in the Sanctuary for the dramatic performance of “Soldier, Come Home”. The play was written by Frank Wicks, and was based on letters written by his great-grandparents, Philip and Mary Pringle, during the Civil War. The play starred Rock Bergeron, Jack Mahoney, Jessica Peck, Bill Steele and Hamish Strong. The male players were dressed in tuxedoes, as opposed to period costumes, which kept the focus on the letters, and the emotions exuded in them. Jessica Peck wore a stunning dress, and delivered a dramatic performance. I very much enjoyed this theater project; I even sat in the pew once occupied by Joshua and Fannie Chamberlain, and their children.”
A description of the play performed at the historic First Parish Church in Brunswick, Maine as part of “Chamberlain Days Festival, 2003.” Submitted by Bobby Grenier of the North Lake County Florida Civil War Round Table.
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