Andrew Carroll, a New York Times bestselling author and founding director of the Center for American War Letters, plans to present his original ballet, I’m Still Here, at the Bossov Ballet Theater this month.
The show is scheduled for Saturday, May 28 at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, May 29 at 2:00 p.m. at the Strider Theater at Colby College at 4520 Mayflower Hill Drive in Waterville.
Inspired by Carroll’s book War Letters, BBT Director Natalya Getman’s original creation is an imaginative response to 21-year-old Lt. Tommie Kennedy to his parents, knowing he would not live to see them again, according to a press release from the Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield.
Kennedy had survived the Bataan Death March in the Pacific during World War II and was a prisoner of war for almost three years, often living on “ships from hell” with little food or water. The original letter was written on the back of a family photograph that he was able to hide, and he gave the letter to another prisoner of war before escaping to the ship’s deck and jumping overboard to put an end to his misery. The letter was passed down a chain of friends until he finally got home. Carroll will show the original letter as part of his May 28 presentation.
According to Getman, the extraordinary journey that Kennedy’s letter took illustrates not only the fragility of people’s connection with the past, but also the power of individual stories to bring them to life in the present. “As I read Tommie’s letter, I couldn’t stop hearing his ‘voice.’ I felt it was important to make others’ voices heard, especially our younger generation,” Getman said.
At a time when the ramifications of war have taken center stage for a new generation, Getman feels that exploring war through the medium of dance helps her students connect with an experience that would otherwise be abstract and distant would stay.
BBT dancer Hector Bligh, from East Amherst, Nova Scotia, recognizes this opportunity and responsibility. “I come from a generation that was spared the atrocities of war, but it means it is extremely important to me to perform this ballet accurately and respectfully, hoping to touch someone who may have experienced the feelings that I aspire to represent,” Bligh said.
Carroll said: “I’m really excited about this performance because I’ve seen these war letters in books, films and readings, but never as inspiration for a ballet. I think it shows how powerful these letters are and how they resonate with so many people even if they have no military connection. And if anyone coming to the Saturday event has war letters or emails to share, we always look.”
Ticket reservations can be made at mci-school.org/bbt-tickets. The theater welcomes donations to cover production costs. BBT will use a portion of the proceeds to support the American Legion Department of Maine.
For more information on Bossov Ballet Theater see mci-school.org/ballet.