It’s not uncommon to find Civil War reenactments being staged at public places throughout the southern states, as historians and academics recreate the monumental battles that became a part of the South’s history during that epic war.
On the other hand, it’s less common for a theater to commit to staging three productions about the Civil War – but that’s exactly what the Orlando Repertory Theatre is doing as part of its 2014-15 season.
And that has Jeff Revels, the Rep’s artistic director, particularly excited about what’s coming up.
“This will be the 150th anniversary conclusion of the end of the Civil War,” Revels said, “and we are dealing with these issues that resonate 150 years later.”
The season will include the tribute to the American Civil War with a play, storytelling events and a staged reading that make up the Rep's Civil War Sesquicentennial Project, which begins in January.
It includes the staging of “The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg,” a play that runs from Jan. 26-Feb. 22, 2015, and kicks off the Civil War Sesquicentennial Project. Taken from Rodman Philbrick's Newbery book, it’s about 12-year-old Homer who sets out to save his brother at the Battle of Gettysburg.
“There’s a brother, Homer P. Figg, who is sold into the Army in the Civil War,” Revels said. “The Civil War is the background to this Huck Finn-type story of a boy on a mission, but you have all these comic adventures along the way. There’s this incredible story that is happening at the same time.
This story is so exciting, and I’m so excited for us to experience it as a theater and audience. This Homer P. Figg story is so much fun. It’s high adventure.”
Revels thinks the popularity of the Newbery book will also help draw audiences to this production.
“It has been on the Florida Sunshine State Reading List, and we have a lot of children who will be familiar with this story, so that’s the anchor,” he said.
The Rep is also producing “Reflections of General Robert E. Lee” (Feb. 9-14, 2015) and “An Evening With General Ulysses S. Grant” (Feb. 23-28, 2015) -- two living history productions where storyteller “Country Joe” Rosier portrays the military men reminiscing about their historic careers.
Rosier, who has also performed his one-man shows at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, seemed like an ideal choice to take part in this Civil War Sesquicentennial, Revels said.
“I came across Joe Rosier doing these one-man shows on Grant and Lee, and I said ‘Hhmm,’ “ Revels said. “My first thought was I’d do Homer P. Figg for these young students, and then how wonderful to be doing Joe’s shows about Grant and about Lee for our older children. Or as a family and a class, you could come to both and get this really cool experience for some perspective. So I contacted Joe and he said yes right away, and we’ll do a week of Lee and a week of Grant. That kind of compliments Homer P. Figg.”
Revels said he believes these productions will appeal both to young kids, and also to teens – as well as their entire families.
“Grant and Lee give more of a historical perspective, that this isn’t just history, this is stuff still lingering today that we haven’t quite dealt with,” he said. “And Homer P. Figg is this fun adventure story against this horrible background of the war. It’s the pluck of this one boy and what he will sacrifice to save his brother.”
And history, he added, can be educational, enlightening and entertaining at the same time.
“You can’t have just dessert, you have to have your vegetables as well,” he said, “and these Civil War pieces can be our vegetables.”
The Orlando Repertory Theatre is at 1001 E. Princeton St., in Loch Haven Park. For more information, go to orlandorep.com or call 407-896-7365.