WHY LETTERS FROM THE FRONT IS SO IMPORTANT TODAY
“Healing” is the one word most often used to describe our show. Whether it’s family members waiting to hear from their loved ones stationed overseas; active duty Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, or Marines home from the battle front; Veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the current conflicts; or any of the multitude of other personal scenarios that brought someone to the show, the overwhelming expression is, “This had a healing effect on me.”
The combined forces of the U.S. military continue to be involved in the longest conflict in American history. This has put an enormous strain on service members and their loved ones. In 2015 tens of thousands of our service members will be returning home. We intend to be there for them.
For them and for those who have already returned, there’s a great deal of healing that needs to be done and we need to bring this extraordinary and time-proven production directly to them – to their base, their community, to them.
Letters From the Front gives them a chance to reflect on the duty, honor, and selfless sacrifice made by those on the battle front and home front for nearly 240 years, and to give them an opportunity to put it into personal perspective. It does that, and so much more . . .
OUR TROOPS NEED IT NOW MORE THAN EVER
For 15 years Letters From The Front entertained hundreds of thousands of American troops, their families and Veterans on military bases in the states and around the world. It was the first professional theatrical production to perform at the Pentagon and has received so many commendations that it has become known as The World’s Most Decorated Play.
The original version of Letters From the Front took place during Desert Storm, but in 1999 the story shifted to WWII to give it broader appeal. Same characters, same plot, different times. The photos seen on this blog reflect the different eras.
NOW THE PLAY IS AVAILABLE IN KINDLE & PRINT
The play LETTERS FROM THE FRONT has only been available as an 8-1/2 x 11 3-hole punched script and then only to the people who actually worked on the show. Now for the first time it is available to the general public in Kindle and print editions. For more information go to this blog page.
THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A SHOW LIKE LETTERS FROM THE FRONT.
Why did it become so beloved by the military community? What makes it so unique? 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 Vally Forge to now.
The story takes place during the closing days of WWII in Europe. The setting is the New London, CT home of Katharine Hartgrove, a writer of national acclaim. She is also a war mom. Her son Stuart is serving with the 5th Army in the bloody fighting in Northern Italy.
Perhaps Michelle Pinkard says it best in her Shreveport Times review, “How could I come close to describing the experience? If every possible war-related state — love, hatred, failure, success, life and death — were tossed into a blender, surely the result would be this Broadway-style production.”
Or maybe a few of the thousands of comment cards, placed inside the playbills, will begin to express the impact of this show:
~ “It touches the soul!” 46, male officer, Bolling AFB, DC
~ “This is the best portrayal of why we serve that I have seen because it gets behind the patriotic talk and gets at the heart of the matter.” 38, male officer, Patrick AFB, FL
~ “The feelings were powerful and made me feel pride and honor for joining the U.S. Military. The play was very inspirational and extremely real.” 19, male enlisted, Ft. Sill, OK
~ “As a widow of an Army Officer you touched my heart over and over again. Thank you so very much!” 50, female officer, Vicenza, Italy
~ “I appreciated how the reality of war was brought to a personal, family level, making names that may be found etched on memorials take on form and feeling.” 47, male family member, Bremerton NS, WA
~ “What I liked the most was the bond I feel with all the service men before me. We all shared the same feelings, hopes and dreams. Thanks.” 30, male enlisted, Ft. Bragg, NC
VIETNAM VETS: IT’S THE WELCOME HOME WE NEVER GOT
Even though the main action of Letters From the Front is set on the home front during WWII, the play starts in 1965 as an elderly Katharine Hartgrove writes a letter to her grandson who has just been deployed to Vietnam.
Katharine explains how she never really shared what those times were like and as she begins to tell him about it, the magic of theater takes us back in time to when she was a war mom working nights in a submarine plant in Groton, CT. She is a renowned writer of human interest stories and has been commissioned to create a play based on letters written during war times. She asks her boyfriend, Johnny Chastain, America’s favorite radio funnyman, to help. He provides an unforeseen twist to the story, but also comic relief throughout the play.
The Vietnam War connection is strong, particularly during Act II when the actors read letters from all American conflicts. Behind them, visuals fill a large screen, accompanied by a moving musical score. Several letters are from the Vietnam era, including the famous one from Dusty, an Army nurse serving in SE Asia. At the end of the play, Katharine concludes her letter to her grandson.
Because of this, Letters From the Front has always maintained a very strong relationship with Vietnam Vets, honoring their service. On the comment cards, many have written the same sentiment: “This is the welcome home we never got.”
REMINDS ME WHY I JOINED IN THE FIRST PLACE
The favorite shows for the cast and crew of Letters From the Front are the special troop shows performed at training bases. Drill Sergeants march in hundreds of young recruits newly in uniform. And this is not a theater-going generation! So the general attitude as the trainees file into the theater is:
~ Great! A cool, dark place I can catch some Z’s for the next two hours.
~ A play?! That’s like being forced to eat boiled broccoli!
But, ten minutes into the show, they’re laughing, applauding, and cheering! Why?
~ They identify with Katharine. She’s like their moms and expresses the same concern over their welfare. For a couple of hours she becomes their surrogate mom and they love her for it.
~ Johnny’s wise guy antics crack them up and when his character takes an unexpected turn, they are very moved.
~ Most importantly, the young troops quickly realize this is a play about them and about those who went before them. It’s their story. And no one has told their story before quite like Letters From The Front. The fact is that it doesn’t matter how high tech a war is, what individual people experience doesn’t change.
At the end of the show these young service members jump to their feet and applaud with enthusiastic appreciation!
They are eager to meet the stars at the traditional meet-and-greet following every performance. On their comment cards many of them write: “Reminds me why I joined in the first place.” Others say: “I can’t believe that a soldier serving in the Civil War had the exact same feelings as I do today.”
MORE THAN JUST A SHOW
The cast and crew of Letters From the Front makes an effort to get involved in the activities of each military community they visit. Personal appearances are made at the local commissary or other facilities.
We’ve helped sort mail, observed training exercises in the field, shared MREs with the troops, and attended many community activities from 4th of July cookouts to air shows.
We also developed, promoted, and implemented the Letters TO the Front letter writing contest which generated hundreds of thousands of hand-written letters to our troops serving overseas.
The letters all started with, “Dear Service Member, I just wanted to say thanks for . . .” The contest was divided into three age categories and the winners received scholarship funds or a computer.
WHY LETTERS FROM THE FRONT IS SO IMPORTANT TODAY
Here is what just a few of the base commanders at over 135 military installations around the world say about Letters From the Front:
“The young service members learn a great deal by watching this. They look up to the people who made it possible for us to do what we do today. This is a great story for them, and it adds a personal touch. It’s not just the rah-rah war part, but it’s what the effect is on the families back home looking at the brave men and women that have gone forth and fought wars for us.” – MG Thomas Braaten, Commanding Officer, MCAS Cherry Point, NC.
“It’s a well-produced show with an important message. It’s a powerful portrayal of emotions of both service members and their families over the course of our nation’s history. I can tell you without reservation that this live theater is an important opportunity to reach out to local civilian communities, and enhance our connection with mainstream America.” – Col. Mike Stewart, Installation Commander, Ft. Meade, MD.
“Provides perspective and healing.” – Commander Renata Louie, US Navy Commanding Officer, NSA LaMaddalena, Italy.
“Tremendously powerful.” – Col. Roxanne Cheney, Commanding Officer, MCAS Beaufort, SC.
The front row center seat at every performance of Letters From The Front is reserved for our POW & MIA. These boots were given to us by a Vietnam Vet who had suffered from PTSD since he returned home. He told us that these had been his boots and he wanted them to travel with the show to remind people to never forget our POW and MIA. We never have and never will forget.
Letters From The Front has been on leave for several years. It is time for it to return. It is needed now more than ever. Please feel free to comment here or to contact us. We will need your support so that we can support those who have served us – on the home front and the battle front.