NYMF Presents Powerful, Jazz-Inspired Musical AN AMERICAN HERO
Celebrating its 15th season, the New York Music Festival (NYMF) proudly presents "An American Hero" July 23-29 offering theatre lovers the opportunity to immerse themselves in an original, powerful, jazz-inspired musical that tells the story of an Irish immigrant during World War II offering a human perspective never before told.
"There are countless stories of love and loss during World War II, but this story is unique, culturally diverse, in its perspective of the war through the eyes of an Irish immigrant who chooses to go against the will of his homeland, fighting for his new country, suffering great loss, and in the process becoming a reluctant American hero," said Dr. Kenn Stilson, co-author of "An American Hero."
Produced by Southeast Missouri State University, "An American Hero" will be performed at 8 p.m. July 23, 9 p.m. July 26, 1 and 5 p.m. July 27, and 1 p.m. July 29 at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row on 42nd Street (between 9th and 10th avenues). For tickets, visit www.nymf.org or call the Box Office at (212) 352-3101.
"It's a traditional, warm story about an unconventional topic -- immigration and PTSD during World War II," says Director Michael McIntosh.
Many people are unaware Ireland was neutral during World War II, Stilson said. Between the wars, they gained their independence from England after centuries of oppression.
"They were not pro-Nazi and pro-Fascism, but they hated the British," Stilson said. "In fact, they hated them so much that Irish men and women who did choose to fight in the war were considered traitors. After the war, they and their families were outcasts. Their countrymen wouldn't hire them, and their families were discriminated against throughout society. Their children were bullied in schools-even by their teachers. It was only in 2013 that the Irish government officially pardoned soldiers who left to fight the Nazis."
Stilson says this tragic, intense drama will tug at heartstrings as the leads, "Thomas" and "Mary," portray love and humanity that transcend all.
McIntosh calls the production "emotional," saying audiences will get to follow the Irish immigrant as he decides to join the U.S. Army during World War II, a controversial decision with Irish immigrants at the time.
"We get to watch him fall in love, storm the beach at Normandy and ultimately suffer from PTSD (then called 'battle fatigue') when he comes home," McIntosh said. "It's an important and powerful story, especially in light of the current immigration issues facing our country."
The dramatic musical centers on the optimistic Irish immigrant, who joins the United States Army, falls in love with and marries a spirited American woman, before being sent to fight in World War II, where he becomes the reluctant recipient of the Medal of Honor. Along the way, he learns the depths of his love of family, the sacrifices of heroes and the true meaning of becoming an American.
Complementing the story line is the music, which is different than that typically associated with musical theatre and with all the hallmarks of Ireland.
"It has a lot of Irish elements, especially through the use of the fiddle," says Music Director and Conductor Jenna Lee Moore. "There are a lot of different harmonies and vocal textures throughout the show that almost give the ensemble numbers a choral feel. The music is meant to take you back in time to the 1940s, while still having modern influences."
"An American Hero," including the script and music, was co-written in 2017 by Cody Cole and Stilson.
"As part of the NYMF, we are given the opportunity to put the show in front of the top industry professionals," Cole said. "It puts us a step closer to getting the show fully produced in New York's finest theaters and ultimately published and produced across the country."
Cole started developing the songs and story and approached Stilson to collaborate on the script. After more than two years, 75 drafts and two readings, the musical was selected by the Gallery Players, an Off-Off Broadway company, to participate in their "Overtures" Staged Reading Series in Brooklyn, New York, in December 2016.
The 2018 NYMF is scheduled for July 9-Aug. 5. For more information, please visit: www.nymf.org.
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