Why did LETTERS FROM THE FRONT become so beloved by audiences around the world, both military and civilian? What makes it so unique?Perhaps it’s because this 3-act dramedy is the only play in which actual war correspondence written by soldiers and their loved ones throughout American history are interwoven into a story that takes place on the home front and honestly reflects the personal themes found in the letters themselves.
It’s about the commitment to preserve freedom, from Valley Forge to now. It’s a story that’s as relevant today as it was when it first opened 25 years ago. LETTERS FROM THE FRONT is entertaiment with a mission.
Katharine Hartgrove, played to perfection by Kathleen Hogan, is a popular writer of human interest stories. She’s also a war mom. Her son Stuart is fighting in Northern Italy during the final days of the war in Europe. Katharine goes all-out to support the war effort. She has a night job at the submarine plant in nearby Groton, CT building torpedo tubes. She even donates her tires to the rubber drive and now must rely on public transportation to get around. She’s also been commissioned to write a play based on actual war correspondence going back as far as the Revolutionary War.
Since Katharine has never written anything to be performed before she enlists the aid of her boyfriend Johnny Chastain, played hilariously by Tim Ross. Johnny is America’s favorite radio comic, known as “Mr. Entertainer.” Katharine refers to him as “that two-legged typhoon with way too many hands.” Johnny is only too happy to assist Katharine – anyway he can. To say the two have very different visions of how the war letters should be presented is the understatement of the year. Johnny sees them as source material for a flag-waving patriotic pageant. Katharine sees them as meaningful and to a degree sacred; a gateway to the human spirit.
Letters From The Front is a unique blend of live theatre, original music as well as popular music from the era. There are also hundreds of images that illustrate the different war letters as they are being read. Other images reveal Katharine and Johnny’s lives prior to the events shown on stage. Considerable time and effort, as well as photographic magic, was required to create these images, including shots of Katharine when she was a young flapper during the 20’s, her cover photo for Life, even a shot of Katharine and Johnny caught off-guard while on his sailboat.
Why go to all this effort? It’s all in an attempt to capture the times during which the play takes place and provide a more immersive experience for the audience. We don’t want them to just watch Letters From The Front, we want them to experience it. According to the comments we’ve gotten, we seem to have accomplished our goal.
Val Archer, born in 1929, enlisted into the Army Air Corps at the early age of 15 out of a strong sense of patriotism and love of country. He served with the Tuskegee Airmen as an instrument specialist on P-47s and C-47s. He saw active duty in Korea, Japan, Guam, the Marshall Islands and Europe. He was presented the Congressional Gold Medal on March 27, 2007 by President George W. Bush.Many groups and individuals worked together to create this special event honoring the Tuskeegee Airmen. Among them were the Atlanta Chapter Tuskeegee Airmen, Inc., the Fraternal Order Of Eagles, and Elevating Veterans Through Art. Stars Kathleen Hogan and Tim Ross gave a stirring performance of Letters From The Front and were rewarded with enthusiastic applause and a Standing-O. A reception followed organized by Kimball Williams, also of the Fraternal Order Of Eagles. It was a memorable afternoon for all involved.
It is gratifying to have the military respond to us with such warmth, kindness, and encouragement. After the show we often receive standing ovations and are presented with Commander Coins, plaques, certificates of achievement, and other awards. These now number in the hundreds and we are proud of each and every one.