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THE BEL AIR PATCH: "The Last Geese of Autumn"

The Shadow Players, a local theatre company, honors World War II and the 70th anniversary of the end of the war with an original play.

By THE SHADOW PLAYERS (Open Post) - July 17, 2015 4:51 pm ET

Bel Air, MD

Summer in Harford County. Kids swim in the pool at the Bel Air athletic club. Waldo’s snowballs opens for business by the mall. We celebrate the fourth of July with pancakes and parades. Then await the hot summer fun of the Farm Fair. But in all the late night revelry and backyard barbeques, we may be missing one of the biggest events to occur this summer. This August marks the 70th anniversary of the end of one of the greatest wars in recorded history: World War II. Fortunately for Harford county residents, we needn’t look far for a chance to commemorate and celebrate this historic anniversary. A local theatre company, The Shadow Players, are bringing to life the joy, tragedy, and patriotism of WWII in their original play The Last Geese of Autumn.

The play follows the Devlin’s, an Irish American family of seven. Patricia Devlin heads the household of 6 children. Through their eyes we see the effects of war and how it changes the face of their home. Unlike many wartime dramas, The Last Geese of Autumn, focuses on the war at the home front, telling the story of a family through holidays and seasons.

Inspired by his own experience, Patrick Perkins crafts a remarkable portrait of an American family. Though working professionally as a lawyer in the Baltimore and Harford County area, he has been writing plays since college. The Last Geese of Autumn is his tenth original production that has premiered with The Shadow Players. But unlike his other work, this play captures a unique quality that makes it stand out from the rest. “This is a story I have been thinking about for a long time,” Perkins says. “Growing up I heard stories about my father in World War II, but as I got older I learned more about my mother: how she was a Rosie Riveter and what it was like back here in the states. And that is the story I wanted to tell.” The Last Geese of Autumn is a tribute to his parents and his childhood in Dundalk, Maryland. Throughout the play, the audience sees classic scenes of Americana, from Fourth of July parades to Christmas decorating, all tied together by the love of family.

Family runs deep with The Last Geese of Autumn and it is found in more than the story alone. Directing this production is Conor Perkins, a recent graduate of esteemed Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, co-founder of The Shadow Players, and son to the playwright. Conor and Patrick have worked together on multiple productions for the company, this being their 2nd as director and playwright. When asked about his experience working with his dad, Conor shared, “It’s not an opportunity that comes by a lot for most people. It’s been very special to work with my parent to honor his parents and my grandparents. “In the cast alone, 14 members have family acting alongside them. Four members, particularly, create an entire family: mother, father, daughter, and son. The director shared his thoughts on the families in this play: “It’s fascinating the way that dynamic plays out in creating a family element of people who are looking out for one another.”

The connection between people was an easy one to establish and cement. The connection to the war proved to be a bit more of challenge. Most modern Americans, especially those who are younger, don’t often think about the America that existed over 70 years ago. In talking to Conor Perkins he said, “It’s important that people of our generation work on this show. This isn’t something that most of us are taught until high school and it’s important to have a new generation be able to access, understand, and share that part of our history.” To allow his young actors to do just that, Perkins utilizes some aspects of the method approach to acting among other acting techniques. As a director, his primary focus is building genuine, deep, and personal connections between the story and the actors.

The cast and crew members have been encouraged to bring in artifacts from their families that connect to World War II. According to one cast member, “Each family has their own story to tell and bringing pieces of our family’s stories has helped to bring Last Geese…to life.” On the set, you will see the kitchen table and military flag that belonged to the playwright’s parents, dishes and glassware that belonged to one actress’ grandparents, and ration books, first aid books, and medicine bottles from the 1940s. Discharge papers, newspaper clippings, photographs, and letters will decorate the lobby turning the theater into a living museum dedicated to the men and women who fought on the front and at home. Stage Manager, Lauren Chambers, stated “I’ve developed a deep empathy and have a personal connection to the characters in this play.” Cast member, Molly Gallagher shared how she has been connecting to WWII, as well. “I’ve had a chance to learn about the war from different points of view. I’ve only ever thought about in the ‘textbook version’. Now, we get to learn about with the real emotions behind the facts.”

With the many unique aspects being folded into this production, The Last Geese of Autumn is sure not to disappoint. The nostalgia and grit put into each scene of the story reflects the determined American spirit that made the difference in a war for liberty and paved the way for the future of our nation. The Shadow Players will present 3 performances on July 30th, 31st, and August 1st beginning at 8pm and located at St. Francis de Sales church in Abingdon. Tickets are available This summer, take a break from your barbeques and picnics. Put down your snowballs and skip just one Orioles game. Carve out some to celebrate the men and women who fought for us in WWII. See them reflected in The Last Geese of Autumn and, in the words of The Shadow Players, “be a part of the story.”

Published on The Bel Air Patch

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