Durham News: Community

ArtsCenter stages ‘A Civil War Christmas’

Paula Vogel
Paula Vogel

ArtsCenter Stage will present “A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration” by Paula Vogel Friday through Sunday, Dec. 13-15, and Thursday through Sunday, December 19-22 at The ArtsCenter’s Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright spins a Christmas tale of hope and forgiveness. It’s bitterly cold on a blustery Christmas Eve in 1864 and all along the Potomac, from the White House to the battlefields, friends and foes alike find their lives strangely and poetically intertwined.

The play weaves carols, folk songs, spirituals and Civil War-era songs into the stories and struggles of a wide range of characters. As the lives of Mary Todd Lincoln, runaway slaves, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Elizabeth Keckley, Union and Confederate soldiers and more converge and we learn that, for all their differences, one thing is clear: the yearning for peace cuts across religious and class divisions, color lines and the Mason-Dixon Line.

Crash course

“It’s with excitement that ArtsCenter Stage brings ‘A Civil War Christmas’ to Triangle audiences,” says Artistic Director Jeri Lynn Schulke. “A Civil War Christmas” is many things at one: a crash course in history, a music-and emotion-filled drama, and a heartwarming tale of a community coming together for a common cause. Says Schulke, “It will be the perfect chance for families to come together, celebrate the holiday season, enjoy some spectacular music, and maybe even learn a bit of history.”

Director Bing Cox and Musical Director Virginia O’Brien will work with the actors Gus Allen, Alyssa Coleman, Gil Faison, Mary Forester, Terra Hodge, John Paul Middlesworth, Alphonse Nicholson, Joey Osuna, Mark Phialas, Bonnie Roe, Justin Smith, and Lora Deneen Tatum. Designers include Tracey Broome, Deb Cox, Elizabeth Droessler, with Samantha Shucavage, Stage Manager.

‘Annual rant’

In an interview with The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Vogel outlined how this play came into being: One evening over dinner, she delivered what she calls her “annual rant.” “Why,” she asked, “are theaters always remounting ‘A Christmas Carol’? Where is the American Christmas Carol?”

But her most personal reason for writing “A Civil War Christmas”?

“I did it for the kids in my family,” she says. “I wanted it to be our American Christmas Carol.”

Like Dickens’ tale of human suffering and spiritual redemption, “‘A Civil War Christmas’ is rich,” relevant and packs a wallop.