The performance of “War of Words” went off without a hitch last night in the Black Box Theater at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Having written the script, I was surprised by how moving it was—how the century-old poems sprang to life with such power and subtlety from the mouths of the five actors.
Among the many enlivening elements were smoothly delivered accents—Hardy’s Dorset English, Apollinaire’s bon vivant playfulness, the taut Germanic sounds of Trakl, and the sly Chicagoan cadences of Carl Sandburg. There were rich characterizations of the female poets, too—the irony-soaked anger of Mary Borden, for example, and the steely lament of Louise Driscoll. All these diverse energies were held together by the voice of the Narrator, who guided the audience from poet to poet, poem to poem, in a strong, steady, involving way.
We had a talk-back session after the performance, emceed by Philip Sneed, the Arvada Center’s Executive Director and guiding spirit behind the whole World War One project, of which “War of Words” was a small part. The audience questions were all complex and insightful. One comment that came up highlighted the impact of the sequence of images rolling behind the actors as the poetry went on, which gave me a chance to praise Lynne Collins, the performance’s director and artistic director for the Arvada Center’s Black Box Theater. She shaped the players’ performances beautifully and assembled the evocative images projected behind and above the actors. The effect was magical and moving.
In the end, I felt that the players got short changed a bit. I kept thinking that Philip might introduce them by name, or that they might introduce themselves, but it was getting late, restiveness was setting in, the opportunity didn’t arise—and then it was over. So let me correct the situation here. Below are the actors and the characters they played in “War of Words.” Click on their names for more information about them.
One Last Note: In the process of creating “War of Words,” I figured I may as well go ahead and create a companion anthology to go with it: Legions of the Sun: Poems of The Great War. Coming from a printer in New Hampshire, a region being savaged by a snowy nor-easter, the shipment of books—against all odds—arrived the afternoon before the performance, and a first quantity of them were sold to members of the audience. Look for more information in the coming days!