Gem Players present 'Soldier, Come Home'

By Staff Report Article posted on Thu. Feb. 21st, 2013
Featured in the cast of “Soldier, Come Home” are James Staton and Mary Poteet, second and third from left, as letter writers Philip and Mary Pringle. In supporting roles are Larry Schiller, left, and Tim Poteet, right, as their brothers, Martin Pringle and Dan Luke. Bill Freeman, second from right, has multiple roles, portraying fathers, an older brother and family friends.
Featured in the cast of “Soldier, Come Home” are James Staton and Mary Poteet, second and third from left, as letter writers Philip and Mary Pringle. In supporting roles are Larry Schiller, left, and Tim Poteet, right, as their brothers, Martin Pringle and Dan Luke. Bill Freeman, second from right, has multiple roles, portraying fathers, an older brother and family friends.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
IF YOU GO

What: "Soldier, Come Home"

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 22-23 and March 1-2; 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 24 and March 3

Where: Gem Theater, Etowah, Tenn.

Admission: $10 adults, $8 children under 12

Phone: 423-263-3270

Website: www.gemplayers.com

• Note: Tickets may be purchased at The Town Squire, 1717 Keith St., N.W., Cleveland, Southern Heritage Antiques, 802 Tennessee Ave., Etowah; and at the box office one hour before showtime.

A story inspired by a collection of family Civil War letters will be presented over the next two weekends at the Gem Theater in Etowah, Tenn.

The Gem Players are reviving the production of "Soldier, Come Home," which the troupe last presented in May 2012, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

The dramatization by Frank W. Wicks is based on letters written by his great-grandparents. Mary Pringle wrote to her husband, Philip, from their home in Armagh, Pa. He responded from several major battle sites, including Antietam, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, the siege of Petersburg and Appomattox.

Written from 1859 to 1865, their long-forgotten correspondence was discovered in a shoebox in the attic of the home of Wicks' grandparents, John S. and Sadie Pringle Wicks, in South Fork, Pa. Wicks' father, Frank Wicks Sr., began transcribing the letters. After his father's death, the younger Wicks continued the project and eventually transformed them into a play.

"I was struck from the beginning by the emotional content of the letters," he has said. "They were filled with conflicts, complicated relationships, humor, enormous difficulties and struggles for survival."

Director LaMone Rose said she wanted to bring the play back to the Gem stage "because of the significance of the letters during this most sorrowful and dramatic time in our country's history."

The production will use a simple set, dramatic lighting and more than 100 images of the war projected on the theater's movie screen to take the audience to that time and space. While the actors have only their voices to convey the agony and destruction of a family torn apart by war, their voices also convey the hope that it will never happen again.

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