All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 opened at Rosebud Theatre, in Rosebud, Alberta on November 4. The musical play runs until December 23. Written by Peter Rothstein, the play was directed by Morris Ertman, with musical direction by Bill Hamm.
Eight men – Joel Braun, Griffin Cork, Tim Dixon , Mark Kazakov, Aaron Krogman, Steven Morton, Kenaniah Love Schnare and Blair Young – tells this story in acapella music and historical letters written from the wartime front during World War I.
The men sing their naïve enthusiasm at setting off to war, cheerfully declaring it will likely be over by Christmas. But they’re soon singing of loneliness, deprivation, darkness, and loss of friends.
As Christmas nears, everything seems bleak. The end of the war is further away than ever.
But British soldiers begin singing together in their trenches, and then to the Germans in their own trenches on the other side of No Man’s Land. On Christmas Day, “yesterday’s enemies” on both sides come up out of their trenches to fraternize, and No Man’s Land becomes “Every Man’s Land”. The combatants sing together in both English and German. They share photos and stories. They take photos of each other. Both sides bury their dead in a shared, bilingual graveside service. Then, together, they play football. The soldiers of both sides plan another truce on New Year’s Day, so they can see how the photos turned out.
But very quickly, their commanding officers issue a reprimand. These actions were appalling, the soldiers are told, and they must never ever do it again.
And, although the war lasts three more Christmases, there is never another Christmas truce.
Under Bill Hamm’s direction, the marvellously-sculpted songs of All is Calm – ranging from sacred to traditional to ribald to ridiculous – lodge the story in our hearts in a way that solely-spoken dialogue could not. The whole experience feels like a personal conversation, as if these historical men have traveled 100 years to share their stories in our living rooms. We so completely take them into our hearts that, when the performers wave goodbye, audience members waved back.
As we recognized Remembrance Day and with Christmas just a few more weeks away, I needed the message of All is Calm – and I suspect, you do too. War rages in far-away countries, and at home, political views separate loved ones.
But All is Calm asks the question: What would happen if we all laid down our arms, reached out our hands, and refused to fight any more? We need this reminder that we can work for peace – and we need to believe we can make it happen.
All is Calm runs on Rosebud’s Opera House stage until December 23. Tickets come with the buffet meal but may also be purchased without. For tickets and more information, go to rosebudtheatre.com or call 1-800-267-7553.