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'Letters Home': From the front and from the heart

Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center presents the Griffin Theatre production of "Letters Home," with two performances Oct. 30 in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College, as part of the Cultural Arts Series.

Christian Blackburn and Lynda Shadrake will be among the cast in the Griffin Theatre production of “Letters Home,” which will be performed twice Oct. 30 in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College, as part of the Cultural Arts Series. (Submitted)
Christian Blackburn and Lynda Shadrake will be among the cast in the Griffin Theatre production of “Letters Home,” which will be performed twice Oct. 30 in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College, as part of the Cultural Arts Series. (Submitted)

Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center presents the Griffin Theatre production of "Letters Home," with two performances Oct. 30 in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College, as part of the Cultural Arts Series.

The shows will be at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

"Letters Home" puts the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq front and center by bringing to life actual letters written by soldiers serving in the Middle East. The production is inspired by the "New York Times" op-ed article "The Things They Wrote" and the subsequent HBO documentary "Last Letters Home." The play additionally uses letters and correspondences from Frank Schaeffer's books "Voices From the Front," "Letters Home From America's Military Family," "Faith of Our Sons" and "Keeping Faith." Without politicizing, the play gives audiences a powerful portrait of the soldier experience in the ongoing war.

Although the title of the play implies that all the letters are from soldiers, the piece includes a small number of correspondences from parents - their words being no less important. These letters were written under the most difficult of circumstances: the disorientation of training, deployment, separation from family and loved ones and combat and occupation duties in Afghanistan and Iraq. One theme seems to unite their diverse voices: the belief that the person standing beside you is more important than you are.

They also help define patriotism and what it means to serve our country today, through acts of bravery, compassion, social responsibility, sense of community and brotherhood. Collectively the production gives a voice to a generation that went to war against terror in Afghanistan and to war in Iraq, for reasons that are still being debated and who are still fighting and dying in those wars today. More importantly, the play reveals the humanity that lies within the war as seen through the eyes of the men and women fighting it.

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The initial Chicago production was critically acclaimed and was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award for "Outstanding New Play." The play has been called "extraordinary, deeply moving. The emotional impact of this 90-minute journey is profound," said the Chicago Sun Times.

"'Letters Home' was the most compelling, patriotic and moving production we have ever presented. As a proud American, I would say that 'Letters Home' is a tribute to our nation, our military, our soldiers and their families that every American should see," Alan Jenkins, founder of the Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Tim Sauers, director of education and community engagement, Overture Center for the Performing Arts in Madison, Wis., said, "It's all too easy to take a position to say that the war is good or bad. 'Letters Home' is written and performed with such honesty and conviction it makes taking sides irrelevant. Our audiences were captivated and emotionally moved, leaving the theater with a better understanding and compassion on this complex situation."

Griffin Theatre is a professional company based in Chicago with a 25-year reputation of presenting cutting-edge works, from new musicals to adapted pieces like "Letters Home."

The CLC production is sponsored by the DAV CWC Chapter 22, the VFW and VFW Auxiliary Post 1647. Reserved seat tickets are available from the CLC box office at www.clcmn.edu/arts or 218-855-8199.

Zach Kenney will be among the cast in the Griffin Theatre production of “Letters Home,” which will be performed twice Oct. 30 in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College, as part of the Cultural Arts Series. (Submitted)
Zach Kenney will be among the cast in the Griffin Theatre production of “Letters Home,” which will be performed twice Oct. 30 in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College, as part of the Cultural Arts Series. (Submitted)

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