The last living veteran of World War I died seven years ago February, seemingly cutting off the possibility of a genuine human connection to that fraught period in world history.
The students and faculty at Rogers State University prove otherwise.
Over the next two weekends, the RSU Theatre Department is presenting “The War to End All Wars: From the Trenches to the Homefront,” an original work by University of Tulsa Musical Theater Director Machele Miller Dill and University of Arkansas Theatre Instructor Steven Marzolf.
With no setting, except perhaps the contents of a history book, the performance draws you in with folksy tunes and period music sung by soldiers and families on the home front.
“We resurrect those who lived, loved and died in this war,” a young man says, through letters, songs, poems and diaries entries.
Classic songs of World War I, sung and performed by a truly talented group of local singers and musicians, include: “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” “Keep the Home Fires Bruning,” “Au Revoir, But Not Goodbye,” “Send Me Away with a Smile,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” and the “Grand Old Flag.”
Heartfelt letters exchanged between mothers and sons and between soldiers and lovers emphasize the reality of these peoples’ lives.
The sense of patriotism is strong, with scenes like a father telling his son, “let me sooner learn of your death than of your cowardice.”
But it is tempered by examples anti-war sentiment from mothers at home and real accounts of disease, fear, trauma, shelled out roads an all-but-fatal wounds.
Much like life, the show portrays a genuine mix of the good and bad.
There are funny scenes like a young bride requesting her husband’s leave so that they can be intimate.
And there are scenes of young love that will surely bring up nostalgic memories of high school sweethearts.
More than once, however, the romance of the era is broken by a soldier’s series of theatrical booms and another’s cry to find his way home before dying in the snow.
Don’t miss your chance to step into history for an hour.
Directed by RSU Theater Program Director David Blakely the show will run April 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 at 7:07 p.m. in Will Rogers Auditorium on the RSU Claremore campus.
The cast list includes: freshman Hallie Battles, freshman Shea Brandt, sophomore Garce Campbell, freshman Jacob Canright, freshman Michael Moore, freshman Ha Tran Thiden “Galaxy” Nguyen, sophomore Cody Pechanec, junior Weston Soden, freshman Zachary Wilson and community performer Ariel White.