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Photos: Cast of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY Meets A Special Guest

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As the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley cast prepares for its upcoming production of "The Bridges of Madison County," set to begin performances April 4 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, members of the team had the opportunity to meet a real Italian war bride, whose story almost mirrors that of the musical's leading character. San Jose resident Francesca Stewart, now 100 years old, is one of the more than a million brides of GIs who originally came to United States due to the War Brides Act passed by Congress in 1945. She stopped by TheatreWorks' Hambly Rehearsal Hall on March 24 to share her story.

Like the female lead in "Bridges" (also named Francesca), Stewart is from Naples, and as in the musical, met her GI husband while he was stationed nearby. The captive cast, artistic staff, and crew listened rapt, as Stewart shared what it was like to live in Italy during the war, describing in detail how her Italian family had to adjust after the wreckage of the war, as well as the loves she had found and lost, and the challenges she faced immigrating to America.

Francesca Nicolina Tommasina Sorvillo Stewart met her husband Clarence Stewart on March 19, 1944 at 6pm, she vividly recalled, when her brother opened the front door to find an American soldier. He introduced himself, explaining that his roommate - already a friend of the family - had told him to come and pay his respects. He regaled Francesca and her family with tales of the war, and at the end of the evening asked for permission to return the next night, and the next, and, as Francesca says, "every day thereafter." On May 17, 1945, when the war ended, Clarence submitted an application to marry and the pair was granted approval. The Stewarts tied the knot in October 1945, and moved to the United States in 1949, where they lived first in New York, eventually migrating to Washington State and California.

Based on the 1992 bestselling novel by Robert James Waller, the Tony Award-winning musical "The Bridges of Madison County" shares the story of a different Francesca. This passionate musical follows the story of an Italian war bride who also moved to America like Stewart. But the musical's lead finds herself confronting unexpected feelings, as she encounters a roving National Geographic photographer and shares with him four sensual, reckless days.

"The Bridges of Madison County," directed by TheatreWorks Artistic Director and founder Robert Kelley will be presented April 4 - 29, 2018at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View. For tickets ($40-$100) and more information the public may visit TheatreWorks.org or call (650) 463-1960.

Photo credit: Joel Heimbuck

Photos: Cast of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY Meets A Special Guest
Francesca Stewart

Photos: Cast of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY Meets A Special Guest
Francesca Stewart and the company

Photos: Cast of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY Meets A Special Guest
Francesca Stewart and Joan Hess


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