This Christmas season, where family infighting is aplenty, try taking peaceful inspiration from… war?
“All Is Calm” will play at the Broad Stage for the first time this Saturday, December 22nd. The acapella play tells the real-life story of a truce between Allied and German soldiers during Christmas in World War I.
Minneapolis-based Artistic Director Peter Rothstein created the play over a decade ago, fascinated with the events that took place.
“I wanted to create the piece for a number of years, thinking how it could be a piece of musical theater; the climax has a lack of conflict, and the whole thing isn’t a traditional drama. But musical theater always has a good story.”
In this Christmas tale, soldiers were fighting to the death. Spending most of their time in the trenches waiting to exchange gunfire, most of the soldiers actually died due to their environmental conditions — influenza, pneumonia and foot rot, just to name a few — rather than from being shot.
Rothstein says that in his research, he discovered that the two sets of at-odds soldiers eventually found peace with each other realizing they wouldn’t be home to see their families soon as their commanding officers told them.
Though there was a language barrier between the two, they’d sing to each other from the trenches at an attempt of humor. Eventually, soldiers would take a leap of faith, pulling themselves up from the trenches to sing carols as a truce, at least for a Christmas Day.
Rothstein says he chose to make this play acapella as opposed to musical in an attempt to maintain a somewhat somber tone.
“It doesn’t look and feel like a traditional musical,” he said, noting that actors still provide music via their voice. “It feels more like a documentary, something meditative.”
Rothstein adds that all text — dialogue and song — is taken from actual accounts in the war and even graveyard inscriptions.
One actor bringing those words to life is Andrew Hey.
Hey said he was attracted to the project due to the positive word of mouth around the Minneapolis area. Additionally, as an actor, he said he felt it was his duty to help tell the stories of soldiers who all to often end up becoming just a faceless statistic.
He described a moment while touring the play in Wisconsin where he found a list of veterans who had connections to the school, some of which who died in WWI. He said he Googled the individual names and got a “no results” message, a sobering moment for the actor.
“That really struck me,” he said. “I wonder how many soldiers who died in that war never had their story told or completely disappeared because they never had a chance to live their lives. To me, that’s why this story is important.”
Both actor and artistic director said due to polarizing times, this message is one that audiences can comfort themselves with.
“I think that it’s particularly important today,” Hey said. “The soldiers in one of the most brutal wars in human history were able to find common ground and respect for each other. So can we.”
Theater Latté Da’s All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce Of 1914 takes place at The Broad Stage Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets, starting at $45, are on sale at www.thebroadstage.org or by calling 310-434-3200