Gem to commemorate Civil War
The Gem Players commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War with the stage production of Frank W. Wickes’ Soldier, Come Home.
The Gem Players commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War with the stage production of Frank W. Wickes’ Soldier, Come Home. The dramatization is based on historic family Civil War letters and will open at the historic Gem Theater in Etowah on May 18,19, 25, 26 at 7:30 p.m. and May 20 and 27 at 2:30 p.m.
Frank W. Wicks, a founding member of the Long Wharf Theatre, a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and a theatre professional since 1958, 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.
It was in 1950 that the long-forgotten letters, written from 1859-1865, were discovered in a shoe box in the attic of the home of Wicks’ grandparents, John S. Wicks and Sadie Pringle Wicks, in South Fork, Pennsylvania. Wicks’ father, Frank Wicks, Sr., began to transcribe the letters. After his father’s death, Wicks continued the project and began work on “Soldier, Come Home.”
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 Wickes on the emotional content and knowledge included in the letters. Wickes 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.
Tickets for Soldier, Come Home are $10 for adults and $8 for children under 12. Advanced tickets can be purchased in Cleveland at The Town Squire Menswear, Southern Heritage Antiques in Etowah and one hour prior to show time at the Gem Theater box office. For more information call the Gem Players’ office 423-263-3270 or visit the website at www.gemplayers.com.
Soldier, Come Home has been playing to sold-out houses since its premiere performance in Brunswick, Maine in 2002. The play has since been performed throughout the Northeast, including an Off-Broadway presentation in New York City. For the opening performance, critics said, “Soldier, Come Home played to enraptured audiences. The script, plus the acting, staging, lighting and music produced an amazing, intimate view of history. This is a theater experience not to be missed.”
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