ANSBACH, Germany – For the first time since 2001, the Base Support Battalion, United States Army Garrison Ansbach, hosted the all-Soldier show “Ten-Hut! An all Soldier Show” at the Terrace Playhouse, Bleidorn Kaserne, April 2.
The show was performed by Soldiers, for Soldiers, which concluded at the playhouse with a loud applause and cheers that echoed from dozens of Soldiers bearing different unit patches.
Soldiers and residents of USAG Ansbach enjoyed the show, with most of the acting cast coming from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade.
The most remarkable set of circumstances that lead to the plays’ production began when Vikki Hanrahan, the Entertainment Director a part of USAG Ansbach, Arts Director for the Terrace Playhouse, accidently stumbled upon the plays that have survived the test of time.
“I was looking in the basement of our costume shop that belongs to the Army, and while I was going through some boxes I came across this script that said ‘G.I. One Act Plays’,” said Hanrahan. “It was faded, kind of mildew-smelling, and as I looked through it, sure enough, there was a script that was commissioned specifically for Soldiers, to be produced by Soldiers, to be performed by Soldiers and to be viewed by Soldiers in 1945.”
The One-Act plays consisted of “The Strange Case of Private Piddle”, “Sally, Irene, and Grandma” (both produced by Special Services Division A.S.F.,1945), and “Love Letters”, original letters written by Soldiers to their loved ones during World War II.
“The material was really written in that timeframe for Soldiers overseas, so that they could have some type of entertainment when they were away from their families,” said Hanrahan.
Over 75 years later, a new generation of Soldiers have shed a new light on an old play.
Dane Winters, the Installation Management Command Entertainment Program Manager, Based out of IMCOM Headquarters, understood the historical significance of presenting a show for the next generation of Soldiers.
“Special Services and Army Entertainment created packages called ‘Blue Print Specials’,” said Winters. “They range from a series of one acts to full scale musicals. They were presented in a book, and it contained a script and directions that told Soldiers how to put on a show with the resources they had on hand in warzones.”
Services such as the USO provided shows for Soldiers during the war, but were rarely able to provide entertainment for Soldiers in combat stricken areas. All Soldier shows used to entertain other Soldiers became essential for recreation.
“The plays gave Soldiers the opportunity to take their minds off of the war and to also share their talents and interests with other Soldiers,” said Winters. “With what is going on in Europe today, we are starting to see the relevance with Soldiers needing that recreation. This play was written in 1945, but an audience in 2022 was entertained by it. They laughed during it and, even though there were things very specific to 1945 and being a Soldier, it still resonates today.”
Col. Karen E. Hobart, Commander of U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Ansbach, enjoyed the evening performance with fellow Soldiers and understood the importance of productions made internally in the community.
“It’s really about resiliency and building community,” said Hobart. “There’s so many parts that make up the community, and theater is one of them. All of these Soldiers and volunteers that set up the background, the performers, the community coming to watch the show, it shows commitment, and really, a sense of purpose and love.”
Out of the eleven Soldiers that volunteered to become characters for the performance, seven of them experienced their first time acting on stage. Including the cast and crew, around 600 hours of volunteer work was used towards making the production become a reality.
CW2 Kevin Costa, a part of Bravo Company, 1-214th General Support Aviation Battalion, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, from Herndon, Virginia, was one of the Soldiers who experienced his first time acting on stage.
“The cast comes from many different backgrounds,” said Costa. “I got to meet guys I probably would not have met in my day to day job at my unit. It was great to meet different people and have fun with them on stage.”
In the original stained and damaged script, a statement was written in 1945 by a man of the name John Mason Brown, which still highlights the importance of theater and being a Soldier generations later.
“What Soldiers like to laugh at most are subjects they recognize as being related to their own living. This is why in-laws are an international joke. This is also the reason for this collection of G.I. One Acts. The world these plays reflect is special to those in uniform. They supply one more link between the theater and the theater of war. If these plays provide amusement, they will have done not only their theatrical duty, but military one.”