GU DEPARTMENT OF PERFORMING ARTS HOLIDAY HISTORY LESSON Nomadic Theatre has replicated a 19th century theater for its new production.
HOLIDAY HISTORY LESSON Nomadic Theatre has replicated a 19th century theater for its new production.

Leave it to Georgetown to use the holiday season as a chance to give students a history lesson. Originally debuting in 2008, “A Civil War Christmas” was written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel and is currently being featured with professional casts in Chicago and New York City. Georgetown will be home to the student-run D.C. premiere. Nomadic Theatre’s new musical, which integrates various Christmas carols and Civil War ballads into the show, transports viewers back to a war-torn and beleaguered Washington, D.C. on Christmas Eve 1864. Familiar faces include Abe and Mary Todd Lincoln, Clara Barton, John Wilkes Booth and Walt Whitman, but the show also seamlessly weaves less historically known figures, such as a mother and daughter escaping from slavery.

“Paula Vogel spins these characters in a way that makes us take a step back and ask the question, ‘Are these really the people we thought we knew so much about?’” actor Luke Funk (COL ’14) said. Funk plays multiple characters in the performance.  The infamous Booth, Funk hints, is preoccupied with other things than assassinating Lincoln, and Lincoln is tackling marital problems and facing the larger issue of the Civil War.  The humanization of the characters highlights the personal conflicts of the main players of the war.
“In the end, everyone is looking for various notions of peace in times of turmoil,” Funk said.
In order to make the play more interactive, a dramaturgical team led by NinaBillone Prieur, a visiting assistant professor in the department of performing arts, has been assembled to create a display in the lobby of the Davis Center for the Performing Arts that includes historical facts about Georgetown and the characters in the show.  The display will draw audiences further into the time period as well as show Georgetown’s role in the Civil War.  Visitors will also be able to watch the cast and crew’s discussions and reactions to the show.
The production and rehearsal process for “A Civil War Christmas” has been much more involved than those for previous Georgetown performances; casting began at the beginning of the semester, and actors were required to take weekly music classes with music department professor Reenie Codelka to prepare for the show. In order to maintain the historical feel of the piece, extensive effort has been put into the costumes and props, and the set is built to resemble a 19th century theater.
“Most of the set pieces are two dimensional in order to give a period feel to the play,” said Funk.  “The use of various scrims [fabrics to mimic a wall or backdrop] has allowed us to move between the world that is real and the world that is imagined or remembered.”
Audiences should look forward to the inventive use of the stage and the multiple actors take; each cast member plays several of the characters in order to create an ensemble piece in which the diversity of the views and experiences are explored. Perspectives from both Union and Confederate soldiers, thwarted assassins and former presidents are all featured.
The cast feels that there’s something special about performing the show here, considering the role Georgetown played in the war.
“It has been incredible to walk around campus, admiring all these places that were and are so important,” producer Tenaya Campbell (COL ’13) said.  “It feels a bit like we’re bringing the story home.”
“A Civil War Christmas” promises to offer an alternative to traditional winter musicals, as well as the perfect way to simultaneously study for your American history final and get into the holiday mood.
The performance will run from Nov. 17 to Dec. 8 in the Davis Center.  Tickets are $10 for students on Friday and Saturday nights and $8 on Thursdays and Sundays.

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