Fox Valley Repertory presents ‘Letters Home’
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media May 24, 2012 9:36AM
Letters Home: A Memorial Day Remembrance
♦ May 25-26
♦ Pheasant Run Resort & Spa, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles
♦ Tickets, $20
♦ (630) 584-6342
Honor. Reverence. Reflection. Several words that describe the Fox Valley Repertory’s presentation of “Letters Home: A Memorial Day Remembrance.”
“The show is a celebration of our men and women who have given their lives to the armed forces,” said Director John Gawlik, who is also the Fox Valley Repertory’s artistic director. “We have a very simple stage — a cyclorama in back that changes color — and an eight-piece music ensemble. All the focus is on the letters and the music.”
Fox Valley Repertory, in partnership with Fox Valley Troop Support Inc. and The Fox Valley Concert Band, will present “Letters Home: A Memorial Day Remembrance” on May 25 and 26 at the Pheasant Run Resort & Spa in St. Charles.
A portion of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Fox Valley Troop Support Inc. and the Illinois Wounded Warriors Project.
“Letters Home: A Memorial Day Remembrance,” created by Gawlik, features actors reading soldiers’ letters written to friends and family during their time of service. Patriotic music, as well as original music, will be performed by members of The Fox Valley Concert Band. This is the second year that Fox Valley Repertory is presenting this tribute to the armed forces.
With help from community submissions and research at the St. Charles Heritage Center and Geneva History Center, Gawlik used letters from various conflicts including: World War II love letters from the parents of St. Charles resident Sarah Giachino (co-founder of Fox Valley Troop Support Inc.); Civil War letters between Private Nicholas Miller and his wife, Jane, of Geneva; World War I letters from Private Frank C. Danielson of Geneva; as well as correspondences during the conflict in Afghanistan involving Naperville native, Ariel, and her husband, Luke, a First Lieutenant in the Army’s Chaos Troop of the First Squadron of the 40th Cavalry Regiment.
“I went to the historical societies and got numerous letters and edited them,” Gawlik said. “I read through the letters to get a tone, to figure out which parts of the letters have more of a connection to an audience. Then we decided where the music will go.
“We have three actors reading the letters and the music will underscore the readings,” Gawlik continued. “The music changes for each era. We have original music for the Afghanistan section. We end with a military medley — the songs of the Army, Navy, Marines, etc. Those in the audience who hear their song can stand up when it is being played.”
Gawlik said that 45 letters are used in the show.
“Some of the letters are edited to a quick paragraph,” he said. “And some might be set up as an e-mail texts. Some of the letters do interact, so there is a letter and then a response.”
Gawlik was especially impressed with the letters of the parents of Sarah Giachino, the founder of Fox Valley Troop Support Inc.
“Sarah had a year’s worth of letters from her parents from World War II,” Gawlik said. “Her father was able to write to her mother before the D-day invasion saying, ‘I can’t tell you where I am.’ Then, at another point, Sarah’s mother would write, ‘I have not heard from you in two weeks.’ The scope of the letters was amazing. They wrote to each other almost every day.”