A Moving Multimedia Tribute to Veterans of World War II
CHESTERTOWN, MD—The combined energy and experience of an intergenerational team of collaborators that includes Washington College students and local World War II veterans will bring the wartime experience vividly to life onstage in a special Veterans Day program. “The Real War: World War II Veterans Remember” will have its free public debut Tuesday, November 11, at 7:30 p.m. with a multimedia staged performance in Decker Theater, Gibson Center for the Arts, on the Washington College campus. A reception will follow the event.
Combining historic and contemporary images, oral recordings of veterans, spoken word performances by students, and a musical score by the renowned Trio Galilei, the innovative stage show dramatizes the stories of Americans who experienced World War II both on the frontlines and on the home front.
The “Real War” performance piece draws on more than 40 interviews conducted over the past year by students in the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience’s StoryQuest oral history program. The program title refers to a famous remark by Walt Whitman about the Civil War: “The real war will never get in the books.” This multisensory show will convey as richly as possible the kinds of individual experiences often left out of traditional histories.
In their interviews, the college students captured vivid first-person stories of remarkable men and women, including an eyewitness to the Pearl Harbor attack, a B-24 gunner shot down over the Adriatic Sea, and one of the first female officers in the U.S. Marine Corps. Many interviews recorded the memories of those who did not serve at the front lines, but participated fully in the wartime experience.
Alex Foxwell ’16, a double major in drama and history and a member of the student team that interviewed veterans, serves as dramaturge for the “The Real War” multimedia performance. The StoryQuest World War II project was especially meaningful to him because of his family’s shared history: his grandmother survived the Holocaust in France, but many other family members were gassed or shot in Poland. “The project itself has taught me the importance of oral history and specific individuals’ stories,” he says. “I have always wanted to work with the Greatest Generation, and StoryQuest helped me realize one of my lifelong goals.”
Guest musicians Trio Galilei—Carolyn Surrick on viola de gamba, Sue Richards on harp, and Ginger Hildebrand on guitar and violin—return to Washington College to enrich the show with their special brand of music. This early music group has performed every Friday over the past six years for wounded warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
In addition to the staged performance, the college invites military veterans of all eras to dine for free at a tribute dinner in Hodson Hall from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. on November 11. A student-curated exhibition featuring veterans’ stories will be on display in the Underwood Lobby outside Decker Theatre.
Sponsored by Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the Washington College Premier Artists Concert Series, the Department of Drama, RiverArts Studio Gallery, Washington College Alumni Association, and the Washington College Veterans Association, the performance, exhibition, and post-performance reception are all free and open to the public.
For more information about this program, which caps off a six-week series of Starr Center events inspired by the World War II oral histories, visit starrcenter.washcoll.edu.
Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large.
Photo: Chestertown resident Sy Ellenhorn is one of the Second World War veterans Washington College students interviewed for the Real War project.