Retired Milford teacher and past Councilperson Tommye Staley helped Dover kick off their 300th Birthday this year as she directed Civil War: The Musical, written by Gregory Boyd and Frank Wildhorn. The play centers on the War Between the States with musical numbers that provide the viewpoint of the Union, Confederacy and slaves during that era. On two weekends in April, Milford residents were part of the ensemble that presented this unique play at the Schwartz Center in Dover.
“I have wanted to do a Tommye Staley directed play since I met her, around 1998, I think,” said Lezlie Eustis who is a member of Second Street Players.“I was officially an “ensemble” member, but Tommye insisted that all characters have names, so I chose Mary.”
The play appeared on Broadway at the St. James Theatre in 1999 and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical. The play weaves an emotional tapestry that tells the story of a difficult time in American history. The show uses letters and speeches to explain the thoughts and opinions of those who lived during that time. The music covers a range of emotions, from enslaved people singing about their pain and misery to the excitement of both armies as they head into war.
“Initially, I thought ‘A musical about the Civil War?,” Ms. Eustis said. “But, in the end, it was an awesome story with a very unique way of storytelling that showed a side of the war that history books gloss over. In just over two hours, it goes from grim determination on both sides to win, to both sides being tired of war and missing home. Covering the hardships of the women left at home and how the slaves’ lives were at the mercy of their owners. The families ripped apart and the human cost to those that were in bondage.”
Adara Ryan, Ms. Eustis’ daughter, said that her mother’s main reason for doing the play was hers as well. Ms. Ryan played Zelda, a nurse, Southern belle and midwife. Ms. Ryan said that the play was important because it reminded audiences of how far the country has come and how far it still has to go. “The play itself, I thought, was heart wrenching,” Ms. Ryan said. “It was a beautiful interpretation of a very important part of our history. The best part of playing my character was getting to show the audience how the war affected those who were left at home while their loved ones went off to war and the worst part was watching everyone die in battle.”
Ms. Eustis said that showing audiences the different aspects of where her character was during the war, from a Southern belle to a nurse who eventually finds her loved one after he died on the battlefield, was an exciting challenge. Several other Milford residents, including Alyson Parola, Jeremiah Godson, Becki Polk and Phil Staley also participated in the play which was planned in conjunction with Dover’s 300th Birthday Celebration.
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