All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 tells the story of the events on December 25th 1914, during the first year of World War I, when soldiers on both sides of war laid down their arms in an unofficial truce and celebrated the holiday. It was a historical event that I was unaware of, but is a beautiful story for the holiday season. It highlights the humanity in all, even those who you would think of as your enemy. It also, in no way what so ,ever glorifies war. Instead it does quite the opposite, calling into question the need for it.
Director Peter Rothstein, along with Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach who were responsible for the musical arrangements, have assembled a theatrical collage filled with passages from soldiers and various choral pieces. No original material is used, but the way that the words of actual soldiers and songs of the time are strung together is brilliant. It makes the story feel more real, almost like a documentary told on stage.
Cast of All is Calm. Photo by George Byron Griffiths.
The stage is rather dark, and for the most part bare except for the 12 men who portray soldiers on both sides of the conflict. They tell the stories of those who fought and of that Christmas day, and sing with beautiful clarity and harmony. The songs sung in top notch choral stylings were traditional songs, Christmas favorites, and songs commonly associated with World War I. There were many times that I didn’t know if I was at a play or at a choral concert.
But one thing that I do know is that I was utterly transported. On a blank stage, twelve actors/singers, brought be back 100 years and into the trenches of World War I. Into the devastation and fear that was felt there, along with the joy that was felt in being able to celebrate Christmas.
The Christmas Truce was never repeated in the subsequent years of World War I. But if I could make a Christmas wish in this holiday season, it would be that everyone all over the world would just lay down their guns. I wonder what would happen, but All Is Calm gave me some ideas of the potential.
All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, presented by Theater Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust, is at the Pantages Theater thru December 18th.
Thank you to Hennepin Theatre Trust for inviting me to this production.