Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Off to a Great Start!

Spring has blossomed. Pollen has rendered any outdoor activity impossible and so, for now, I am trying to focus mainly on indoor activities.

Last Saturday, for example, I attended a really wonderful production of Lost Nation Theater’s Ransom at the Montpelier City Hall Theater.  Even though the pollen count finally caught up with me I was delighted with everything about this Broadway-worthy production.  Despite my intermittent sneezing and snuffling (which I like to think provided added echoes of the Civil War battlefields that formed part of the through-narrative of the work), the 20-or-so performers brought to life the letters of Ransom Towle, a native of West Roxbury, Vt. Serving as an officer in the Army of the Potomac through some of the most difficult years of the Civil War, Towle was wounded, recovered, and eventually lost his life during the Peninsula Campaign.

As good as the leading actors were (something I tend to expect from Lost Nation Theater), perhaps the most exciting thing about the production was the skill and professionalism of the four or five children who played surprisingly important roles.  The play wasn't just about one or two relationships played out against the backdrop of the Civil War.  It was about the destiny of an entire Vermont community--one that in the space of only a few years lost the entire "flower of its youth"--and how war's impact is not just on those who fight, but those who are left behind. The children were beautifully cast, and their skill--first at playing and acting like children, and then later being forced to confront injury, madness, and even death--was as good as any I have seen in any production anywhere. 

In a few months we will note in passing that 150 years ago more than 50,000 young men lost their lives during the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Those kinds of statistics tend to numb us to the reality of what that must have been like--not only for those who lived in or near Gettysburg itself, but those whose families bore the brunt of the outcome.  Ransom did an amazing job of bringing that reality into the present day and forcing us to confront the nature of man and his conflicts.

Bravo, Lost Nation Theater!  The summer arts season is off to a fantastic start...

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