As soon as the production of Tim Stevens’ “War at Your Door” play concluded, he immediately got to work his next play.
“We did the last show last year on a Friday night, and the next Saturday morning I started working on this,” said Stevens, retired high school sports editor at The News & Observer.
Later this month, Stevens will put on a production at Garner Performing Arts Center called “More Than a Name.” It’s a musical about Garner and its sacrifice during World War II. Stevens said he’s read 20 books, interviewed about 40 people and has done a lot of research to find out the history of Garner during World War II.
He’ll re-create it in a musical. He decided to do a story on World War II, because 2016 is the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
There were 11 men from Garner killed in World War II. The musical is dedicated to them. All of their names are listed in the musical, and the actors tell their stories. They also tell the stories of some of the women whose husbands and loved ones were affected in the war.
Some of the people whose stories are told in the musical include Oliver Westbrook Jr., a B-17 pilot, who lived on Highway 50 in Garner and married his best friend’s sister. They were separated by the war soon after they were married.
Lucile Stevens, who lived until she was 101, met her husband, who went off eventually went off to war. When he left for war, she was 6 months pregnant with his daughter.
Noel Bryan, the fire chief of Garner Volunteer Fire Department, went to England and was captured in France shortly after D-Day. He remained a POW for the remainder of the war.
Helen Phillips, longtime Garner resident, was in the ninth grade and had to drop out of school to work in the fields because there were no men around.
“We kind of tell these stories about people who went, people who didn’t and stayed at home,” Stevens said. “The overarching theme is in the midst of terrible things, there are still good people.”
Phillips said she’s honored to be featured in a play and have someone tell her story.
“It makes me feel good, that somebody would want play the part where I (grew up),” she said. “I’m just tickled to death. Here I am 89 years old and stopped schooling in the ninth grade.
“Anything I can do to make young black boys and girls (know) that they can go to the top. All they have to do is set their mind to it.”
A few of the actors who have roles include, Rozlyn Sorrell, an educator and featured soloist with the N.C. Symphony. She will play Phillips. Sorrell, a Garner resident, said she is excited to play the part.
“It’s not about those people that were here and gone, but also about some that still remain,” she said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to portray someone who has made such an impact on the community.”
Sorrell said this was also an opportunity to introduce herself to the community.
“I know Stevens is well respected and has really put Garner on the map with Broadway Voices and things like that,” Sorrell said. “I live in the community and I, too, wanted to give back and he puts his heart into it.”
Eddie Gray will also make his second apperance in a Stevens’ play. And the Hall Sisters will sing music from the 1940s.
Stevens said he wants people to understand that Garner does have a history. He hopes to do one a year.
“I hope to do different decades and different people as we move forward,” Stevens said.
Stevens hopes to write one a year as long as he’s around, he said.
“We’re the only community I know that is trying to record the history in a series of plays,” Stevens said.
Want to go?
The dates are March 31 and April 1 at 7:30 p.m., and April 2 at 3 p.m.
Advance tickets are $15. The shows will be held at the Garner Performing Arts Center.
Tickets are available at the Garner Performing Arts Center (742 W. Garner Road) and on-line at http://garnerperformingartscenter.com/MoreThanaName.asp. For information contact 919-661-4602.