Dreamscape Theatre Presents IN FIELDS WHERE THEY LAY, 12/11 - 1/2
"In Fields Where They Lay" by Ricardo Perez Gonzalez, developed by Brad Raimondo, is a new play about the Christmas Truce in World War I. It's a portrait of a squad of front-line British soldiers who, with their German counterparts, shook hands, shared cigarettes and sang Christmas carols together in the brief, precious interruption in fighting that occurred on December 24 and 25, 1914. The Dreamscape Theatre will present the debut production December 11 to January 2 at Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 West 26th Street, directed by Dreamscape's Producing Artistic Director, Brad Raimondo.
The famed Christmas Truce began in Belgium on Christmas Eve, 1914, when German troops began decorating around their trenches with candled trees that were gifts of the Kaiser and German civilians. They sang Christmas carols, notably "Stille Nacht"(Silent Night), many of which were recognizable to the British Tommies, who responded with their own songs. Tentative contacts between the sides led to a breathing spell where enemy soldiers met, exchanged small gifts and, by some reports, even played soccer together. Most importantly, burial parties were allowed and mass funerals held for fallen comrades. Commanding officers were, in general, hesitant to allow the Truce and in some cases strongly forbade their men from engaging in it. In following years, artillery bombardments were ordered on Christmas Eve to ensure no further interruptions in combat. Troops were rotated through various areas of the stalemate to prevent them from becoming familiar with the enemy. Even with these measures, there were a few similar encounters, but on a much smaller scale.
The play tells the story of a small group of men living through the 1914 truce. It was developed from diaries, letters and newspaper accounts of the time (diaries were the best resource because everything else was so heavily censored), and improvisations based on these sources. It follows a platoon of volunteers struggling in the trenches. We learn why they enlisted (there was no draft in Britain until 1915; the Empire had not participated in a continental war since the Crimean War). One is a teenager longing to prove his manhood; another is his older friend who has signed up to protect him. One soldier is a Jamaican domestic servant, assigned as a runner, who longs to be seen as a comrade, not an "other." One, a sniper, is a modest family man who will not kill but only wounds his targets to take them out of commission (a detail inspired by an actual interview with the recently deceased Harry Patch, the final surviving British veteran of the War). Another is a misanthropic, self-educated philosopher with a death wish. They are led by an upper class, Oxford-educated Lieutenant and a veteran cockney sergeant. The play is primarily concerned with the story of these men's personal struggles to come to terms with each other and their roles as soldiers in the Great War. The Christmas Truce is the singular event that most embodies the characters' dilemmas, particularly the way in which each one must balance his duty as a soldier against his fears, hopes and morals as a man.
"In our play, the Truce is used as a way to explore the characters at the same time as the characters are used as a way to explore the Truce," Brad Raimondo says, "They were trying to maintain their humanity in the face of irresistible forces. This was a moment when common individual men were able to put the brakes on the giant global catastrophe. But the momentum was too powerful for them." He adds, "It was also the momentum of a world that made many weird decisions at end of the war that afflict us today, like the partition of Middle East." He concludes, "There is even a bigger question. If the 1914 truce had lasted, what would it have taken to end it?"
The play is recommended for audiences aged 11 and up.
There is a cast of eight playing multiple parts, including the Tommies, some German soldiers, some abstract, spiritual characters and a woman who plays the gentle, strong wife of one of the privates. The actors are Zack Calhoon, Pete Forester, Billy Griffin, Carl Hendrick Louis, Alan McNaney, Jared Sampson, Michael Swartz and Morgan Anne Zipf.
For many people today, World War I has faded into abstraction, partly because its scale is so vast as to be incomprehensible to the individual. Total industrial war brought total industrial and human carnage. Over 65 million men were fielded and 15 million people lost their lives; these included 8.5 million soldiers on the field and 6.5 million civilians from the accompanying hardship and starvation. Over 21 million soldiers were wounded and 7.5 million were taken prisoner or missing. The Christmas truce failed, as did any attempt to stop the war, which ground ahead with its own irresistible momentum, as all wars seem to. The theme weighs heavily on us today. It is probably responsible for the current London success of "War Horse," a play about one of the millions of horses who were thrown into the maelstrom and died in its barbed wire.
The Dreamscape Theatre was co-founded in 2002 by Producing Artistic Director, Brad Raimondo. It is a New York-based independent theatre company dedicated to re-imagining contemporary and classic stories with a diverse ensemble. In five years, Dreamscape has produced sixteen projects, including a touring production of the contemporary South African classic "Woza Albert!" (directed by Jennifer McGrath), which was seen by over 2,000 high school students in New York and New Jersey. In 2006, Dreamscape made its FringeNYC debut with "Burning Cities Project," hailed by New Theater Corps as "a phenomenal tour-de-force." In 2007 Dreamscape produced "The Commission" by Stephen Fechter, also at FringeNYC. Over the past year, Dreamscape has conducted a series of collaborative workshops aimed at further developing the approach to collaborative devising and the development of text through improvisational work that it employed when creating "Burning Cities." "In Fields Where They Lay" is the first project to emerge from this new phase in Dreamscape's existence.
Brad Raimondo (Director) is co-founder and Producing Artistic Director of The Dreamscape Theatre. He holds a BFA in Drama from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where he studied directing and producing at Playwrights Horizons Theater School, and a Masters' Degree in Educational Theatre from NYU's Steinhardt School of Education. Previous directing projects include "The Credeaux Canvas" by Keith Bunin (Dreamscape, 2004) and "Invisible Child" by Elizabeth Barri at the Midtown InterNational Theatre Festival in 2005. He was the lead creator and an ensemble member of Dreamscape's "Burning Cities Project" (FringeNYC 2006). He has produced or co-produced all sixteen of Dreamscape's projects since 2002. He is also a Teaching Artist with The New Victory Theater and other New York institutions.
Ricardo Perez Gonzales (Playwright) is a founding member of The Dreamscape Theatre. He has been active in New York's downtown theater world, including as a contributing writer and originator of the role of Juan Gonzalez in "Migrants!" (Teatro Pregones). His FringeNYC credits include the solo show "Johnny Got His Gun" (FringeNYC 2005, actor/producer/translator) for which Curtain Up and nytheatre.com hailed him as "remarkable" and "utterly compelling," and "The Burning Cities Project (FringeNYC 2006, co-creator/ensemble member). He is also a member of Big Apple Playback Theatre and recently participated in Tectonic Theatre Project's Spring Intensive.
Scenic design is by Kacie Hultgren. Lighting design is by Wilburn Bonnell. Costume design is by Joanne Haas. Sound design is by Geoffrey Roecker. Movement Coach is Jennifer McGrath. Musical Director is Anna Ebbesen.
"In Fields Where They Lay" runs December 11 to January 2, 2010 (skips Christmas Week) at the Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 West 26th Street. The production is presented by The Dreamscape Theatre (www.dreamscapetheatre.org). $15 general admission; Box office: SMARTTIX (212) 868-4444, www.smarttix.com (Fri, Jan 1 pay what you can.). Wed-Fri at 8:00 pm, Sat at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm; Sun at 7:00 pm. Runs 1:50 with intermission.