Student actors revive soldiers’ letters again
A somber air settles in the theater as the performers begin rehearsing their scenes. They are immediately transported to the chaos of battle through the letters they read, which were written by soldiers.
The theatre department is once again producing “If All the Sky Were Paper,” two years after it premiered. The play is part of The Legacy Project, which is a national, all-volunteer initiative that encourages Americans to preserve letters between veterans and their loved ones.
The play is composed of testimonies from soldiers around the world dealing with battles from the Civil War to the Iraq War through letters to their families at home. It’s directed by assistant professor of theatre John Benitz.
“It’s been an interesting rehearsal process. We’re not acting off each other because each letter is so different and separate,” sophomore theatre major Sarah Jenks said. “But we are all still connected through the similar messages each of the letters have.”
Jenks plays four different characters and said most performers play multiple roles in the show. Dean of the College of Performing Arts Dale Merrill said the show costs approximately $20,000 to produce because of the lighting needed to project many images throughout the performance and other technical elements. Ticket sales will go toward the cost of production.
Merrill said the last time “If All the Sky Were Paper” was at Chapman, all of the shows were about 50 percent sold out and the theatre department broke even with ticket sales and the help of sponsors.
“That is very good for a theater show,” Merrill said. “This is a multimedia production that was a huge hit.”
Jenks said the show became acclaimed quickly because it shows a perspective of soldiers that often goes unseen.
“The play is not made up, it is all real accounts from letters that (author) Andrew Carroll found,” Jenks said. “There is even a story from a soldier actually on a ship in Pearl Harbor talking about the bombing around him.”
Although actors could re-audition for the show, they could not be cast for the same role.
Junior dance major Chris Babcock saw the show when it premiered in 2010.
“I absolutely loved it, it was truly amazing,” he said. “I cannot wait to see it again.”
There will be a special pre-show talk with playwright and founder of the Legacy Project, Carroll, to discuss the project Nov. 9. “If All the Sky Were Paper” will be performed Nov. 7 to Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Waltmar Theatre with additional shows Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 at 2 p.m.