Civil War “Letters Play” to be held in Western Pennsylvania.

Civil War battlefield post office where "Soldier, Come Home" letters were processed.

Civil War battlefield post office where “Soldier, Come Home” letters were processed.

Mark your calendars:

On Friday, May 12, 2017, Darlington, Pennsylvania’s Little Beaver Historical Society will present the award-winning Civil War play by Frank W. Wicks at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center, Midland, Pennsylvania. “Soldier, Come Home” is based on the Civil War letters of Wicks’ great-grandparents, who lived not far from the Darlington/Midland area.
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Little Beaver Historical Society, Darlington, PA.  724-827-8841

Little Beaver Historical Society, Darlington, PA.
724-827-8841

According to Dave Holoweiko, a board member, “ ‘Soldier, Come Home’ reflects some of our own history at the historical Society. About 4 years ago we were donated a box of Civil War letters from the family of 16 year old William Henry Huffman of Darlington PA. The letters we found mirror Wicks’ play so much it’s amazing.”

In fact, another board member, Jay Paisley, was inspired by the letters and wrote a book entitled, The Huffman Letters: Civil War Letters to Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

For ticket reservations and further information, contact the Little Beaver Historical Society at 724-827-8841. The “Soldier, Come Home” web site is www.civilwarplay.com.

The award-winning Civil War play, “Soldier, Come Home,” has just been launched online by the Samuel French Play Publishing Company as part of its exciting new program, Playwright Direct. Author Frank W. Wicks’ play is now available online free of charge and may be downloaded worldwide.0049038_soldier_come_home_300-1

Playwright Direct allows playwrights to be discovered through the Samuel French website. After receiving a free copy, customers may license the script and present a production of the play. Samuel French handles the rest. Since 1830, Samuel French has been the leading publisher and licensor of theatrical works.

“We are constantly looking for innovative ways to get new work into the hands of theatre lovers,” says a Samuel French spokesperson. “We realize there are a great number of playwrights looking to promote their original works, so we created a platform that allows

Historic Wicks family Civil War letters were the inspiration for Soldier, Come Home, which just celebrated its 100th performance..

Historic Wicks family Civil War letters were the inspiration for Soldier, Come Home, which just celebrated its 100th performance..

theaters and producers around the globe to discover new work easily.”

“Soldier, Come Home” was inspired by the letters of Frank W. Wicks’ great-grandparents, Philip and Mary Pringle, written during the period 1859 to 1865 from western Pennsylvania and from major Civil War battle sites, including Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, the Siege of Petersburg, and Appomattox.

Discovered in a shoe box in the attic of the Wicks family home in South Fork, Pennsylvania, the letters provide a look back at some of the most significant battles of the Civil War as well as what life was like for those family members left behind.

Wicks, a founding member of the Long Wharf Theatre, a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and a theater professional since 1958, transformed the letters into a play, weaving the story of his family through the events of the Civil War.

"Soldier, Come Home" at the Lyric Theatre, Loudon, TN, directed by Robert Harrison.

“Soldier, Come Home” at the Lyric Theatre, Loudon, TN. The production used over 75 historic Civil War photos downloaded from The Library of Congress.

The play is performed as reader’s theater by a cast of 5 playing 8 different characters, using mínimal sets, lights and costumes.

“The true magic of Frank Wicks’ play is in its simplicity. says Dr. Steven Brown, Kenosha, Wisconsin.“The letters become  the dialogue – conflict, humor and emotions completely take over the moment the play begins.”

An informal production of "Soldier, Come Home" in the garden of the Merida English Library, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. Presenting the Prologue is author, Frank W. Wicks

An informal production of “Soldier, Come Home” in the garden of the Merida English Library, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. Presenting the Prologue is author, Frank W. Wicks

For a free copy of “Soldier, Come Home,” log onto Playwright Direct Online and click the “Add to Cart” button on the top right. At check-out you will have the opportunity to print out the play. For groups or individuals interested in presenting a performance of the play, visit Samuel French Online.  Telephone is 1-866-598-8449 and  email is: info@samuelfrench.com. The author may be reached at frankwicks@gmail.com

The Pejepscot Historical Society as part of Chamberlain Days 2015 presents “Soldier, Come Home,’’ the award-winning play by Frank W. Wicks based on his great-grandparent’s Civil War 11049461_488735744629159_595627080101769580_nletters, on Friday, August 7th, 7:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Church, Pleasant Street, Brunswick, Maine.

“Soldier, Come Home” brings to life the letters of Mary Luke Pringle, her husband, Philip W. Pringle, and family members. The letters provide a look back at some of the most significant battles of the Civil War as well as what life was like for those family members left behind.

In 1950, the long-forgotten letters, written from 1859 to 1865, were discovered in a shoe box in the attic of the Wicks family home in South Fork, Pennsylvania. Wicks, a resident of Harpswell, Maine, transformed the letters into a play, weaving the story of his family through the events and the times of the Civil War.

Mary Pringle wrote to her husband from Armagh, Pennsylvania, while Philip and other family

Wicks family Civil War letters were the inspiration for "Soldier, Come Home."

Wicks family Civil War letters were the inspiration for “Soldier, Come Home.”

members corresponded from several major battle sites, including Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, the Siege of Petersburg, and Appomattox.

A Kenosha, Wisconsin critic said, “The true magic of Wicks’ play is in its simplicity, which comes alive through extraordinary letters sent between the battlefield and home. The letters become the play’s dialogue. Conflict, humor, urgency, and powerful emotions completely take over the moment the play begins.”

“Soldier” premiered in Brunswick, Maine in 2002 and has been performed throughout America by more than 20 theater companies. Celebrating its 100th performance on August 7, “Soldier, Come Home” is the winner of the 2012 Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Award for Excellence – “Best Significant Community Impact.”

The play is performed as reader’s theater by six actors playing eight different characters. In the Brunswick cast are Jessica Peck-Lindsay, Michael Thomas, Jack Mahoney, Michael Millett, Al Miller, and special guest Araby Wicks Leary, great-granddaughter of Mary and Philip Pringle, playing her great-great grandmother, Mama Luke.

Chamberlain Days is a bi-annual celebration Chamberlain bookof the life of Civil War General Joshua Chamberlain, a Brunswick, Maine resident, governor of the State of Maine and President of Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine.

All tickets for the production are $10.00. For ticket reservations and further information about Chamberlain Days 2015, call the Pejepscot Historical Society at 207-729-6606 or visit http:/pejepscothistorical.org/ Tickets will also be available at the door.

It has just been announced that the live broadcast of Frank W. Wicks’ Civil War play, Soldier, Come Home on WGTD-FM Public Radio, Kenosha-Racine-Lake Geneva, Wisconsin has won the 2012 First Place Award for Excellence from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. The play was broadcast

May 4, 2013 award ceremony, Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. First Place Award for Frank W. Wicks' Soldier Come Home - "Best Significant Community Impact." To purchase and download a copy of the play right now, click http://www.civilwarplay.com.

May 4, 2013 award ceremony, Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. First Place Award for Frank W. Wicks’ Soldier Come Home“Best Significant Community Impact.” To purchase and download a copy of the play, click www.civilwarplay.com.

from the Kenosha Civil War Museum in September 2012.

According to the play’s producer and director, Dr. Steven M. Brown, Soldier, Come Home, based on Wicks’ great-grandparent’s Civil War letters, won First Place in the category of “Significant Community Impact.” Brown says, “Congratulations, Mr. Wicks! I love the play, and it’s such an honor to be able to work with you.”

The letters of Wicks’ great-grandparents, Philip and Mary Pringle, were discovered in a shoebox in the attic of the family home in

Wicks Family Civil War letter, February 19, 1862. The letters were the inspiration for soldier Come Home.

Wicks Family Civil War letter, February 19, 1862. The letters were the inspiration for Soldier, Come Home.

South Fork, Pennsylvania. Wicks transformed the letters into a play, weaving the story of one family through the events of the Civil War.

Soldier, Come Home premiered in Brunswick, Maine in 2002 and has since been performed by more than twelve different theater companies across America, including an Off-Broadway presentation in New York City. Critics described the play as “Beautiful – a rare glimpse into the Civil War. This is a theater experience not to be missed.”

Recent performances have taken place in Oregon, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and six dinner/theater performances in Bluefield, West Virginia.  The next performance is June 29, 2013 in

Ashley L. Froy in Soldier, Come Home at the Summit Theatre, Bluefield, WV

Ashley L. Froy in Soldier, Come Home at the Summit Theatre, Bluefield, WV

Tullahoma, Tennessee commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Tullahoma Civil War Campaign.

The play is available for productions in theaters and community centers across America. To purchase and download a copy of the play right now, click on www.civilwarplay.com.

Playwright Frank W. Wicks lives on an island in Maine.

 

 

 

Frank W. Wicks talks about the origins of his Civil War play, “Soldier, Come Home.” (Next performance: Friday, May 12, 2017, Performing Arts Center, Midland, Pennsylvania. 724-827-8841)

It was like a crash course in American History 101. Letter after letter told of famous Civil War events from the firing on Fort Sumter to the surrender at Appomattox. I was holding in my hands a treasure of first-person accounts of our country’s history. Not only that – I was also reading the story and the history of my family.

Historic family Civil War letters were the inspiration for Frank W. Wicks’ play, “Soldier, Come Home”

This was my reaction as I opened the old shoe box containing over 100 beautifully preserved letters written by my great-grandparents.

I pored over the letters deep into the night, amazed at the information, but sometimes feeling I was invading their privacy -listening in on intimate details of their lives. But I read on, swept up by the beautiful language of 19th century letter writers.

One letter jumped out:

April 10th, 1864

Dear Husband, I seat myself this morning to speak to you through the silent voice of the pen…

And so writes my great-grandmother, Mary Pringle, to her Civil War soldier-husband, Philip Pringle. I have been struck by that haunting phrase for years.

I had to remind myself constantly that this was the only form of communication between Civil War soldiers and their families. The pen was the only voice that

Illustrated letter to Mary Pringle from Philip Pringle, May 1, 1864. Camp stationery with the heading:
The U.S. CHRISTIAN COMMISSION
Sends this sheet as the Soldier’s Messenger to his home.
Let it hasten to those who wait for tidings.

expressed love, longing and countless other emotions. Not surprisingly though, my great-grandparents’ letters were filled with everyday, ordinary information written by ordinary people thrown into extraordinary circumstances. The pen had to provide instructions about tending the farm, feeding cattle, paying bills. And the letters always provided an update on the weather and a little neighborhood gossip.

But the letters contained a basic truth of the times. Mary Pringle goes on to say, “Write to me soon for I can hardly wait. It is all the pleasure I have to write and read your letters.”

Early on I was aware that the letters began to tell a story and were filled with drama. Relationships were complicated, misunderstandings were prevalent, family members gave support – and sometimes not, wives had to be quick learners as they were thrown – overnight – into the responsibilities of running businesses, farms, and earning enough money to make it all happen. I wondered – would it be possible to tell a story – to create a play – through a series of letters?

As it turned out, I didn’t have to do all that much work. As the war raged on the letters continued to tell the story – of the incredible battles, the shifting of power between husband and wife, and of new-found spirit and courage. The play practically wrote itself.

But the gap between letters received grew longer and longer. The mail service was being severely

civil war letter

Battle letter from Philip to Mary, May 14, 1864

tested – fewer and fewer letters were getting through. Anxious families at home wondered if their soldier was dead or alive. At this point Philip scribbles at the bottom of a letter, “I am sending this by a wounded soldier.”

To make matters worse, the only way money could be sent home was by mail. But that was risky – On March 15, 1865 Philip writes, “The mail was robbed and there was a great deal of money taken. They blamed the mail carrier for it and they have him under arrest. They found a great many letters torn open and thrown away. Some lost 100 dollars, some 200. Someone even 900.“

An online essay, Wartime Letterwriting, says, “In addition, soldiers were constantly on the move, which made for further delivery problems. If a letter was addressed and delivered to a soldier’s last known address, there was no guarantee that its intended recipient was still stationed at that camp.

Letter from Mary Pringle to Civil War husband, Philip Pringle

Correspondents at home had to rely on information from a soldier’s last letter regarding his whereabouts.”

I am eternally grateful for the silent voices of my great-grandparents’ pens. They bestowed on me – as well as all of their descendants – a rare legacy of extraordinary history – family and country – loud and clear.

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

Ken Bradley, Steven Soria and Aimee Kennedy in “Soldier, Come Home” at the GreenMan Theatre, Elmhurst, Illinois

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

Kenosha Civil War Museum, site of the live radio broadcast of “Soldier” which won the 2012 First Place Award from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for “Best Significant Community Impact.”

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. The production won the First Place award by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

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.

Recent 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)

June 29, 30, July 1 – Three performances in Covington, Kentucky, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Performances on the patio of the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar with music by the Rabbit Hash String Band.)

Upcoming performances of Soldier:

September 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, 2013 – Thomas More College Theatre, Crestview Hills, Kentucky.

 

 

 

Ken Bradley, Steven Soria, Aimee Kennedy and Tom Viskocil in "Soldier, Come Home," at the GreenMan Theatre, Elmhurst, Illinois (photo by Ken Beach)

Soldier, Come Home, a play based on family Civil War letters, launches “Civil War 150 ” at the GreenMan Theatre, Elmhurst, Illinois, produced in conjunction with the Elmhurst Public Library.

Historic family Civil War letters were the inspiration for Frank W. Wicks' play, "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.

Ken Bradley, Steven Soria and Aimee Kennedy in a scene from "Soldier, Come Home," GreenMan Theatre, Elmhurt, Illinois (photo by Ken Beach)

For tickets and further information, call GreenMan Theatre at 630-464-2646. Or email isophil@gmail.com.

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