Monday, February 27, 2017

Treasures From the Worcester Room: A Pre-War Playbill

As the United States prepares to commemorate the one hundred year anniversary of America's entry into World War I this year, it is interesting to note that the United States entered the war relatively late.  As such, the war was a subject of fascination to many Americans for years, without Americans having declared a side.  Along those lines, it is interesting to look at at a play that was performed in Worcester 101 years ago this month in February of 1916.  That play was Under Fire written by Roi Cooper Megrue.

The Worcester Room's collection of theater programs has always been one of the collections that has interested me the most.  Not only does it demonstrate how Worcester has long been a home for the arts, it also helps to demonstrate the opinions and culture of the city at the time.  This particular program has a few interesting features worth highlighting.  The program insists that the production is "new and neutral" and promises a show free from "noise, horror and atrocities" and featuring "thrills, comedy and romance". This shows a country and a city that could still look at the First World War through the eyes of a third-party observer.  In fact, when researching the history of the production, I found one article from the time that mentioned that when the show was running on Broadway, the director hired reservists from the German army who were living in America to play German soldiers.  This was mere months before the United States would be battling the German army in Europe.  Just another great example of the treasures that can be found in the library's Worcester Room.

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