by Jeff Duncan
directed by Guy Sanville
Originally produced at The Purple Rose Theatre Company, Chelsea, MI
June 14 to September 1, 2018
About the Premiere Production:
Synopsis: On the eve of WWII, women represented 25% of the American Labor force. By 1944, the peak year of female wartime employment, they constituted almost 40% of the workforce. How did these women handle responsibilities outside the house? What was the reaction of men who worked side-by-side with them in defense plants? How did the experience of working alter the women’s view of themselves and their future?
During WW II, The Willow Run bomber plant, located east of Ypsilanti MI, became an iconic symbol of American productivity by employing the largest female workforce in American history under one roof; women known to the world as “Rosie the Riveters”. Thousands of people from various ethnicities and backgrounds migrated from every corner of the United States to find work in the Willow Run plant, playing a vital role in the war effort. In the largest factory under one roof in the world, some 40,000 employees, men and mostly women, turned out B-24 bombers, the 4-engine Liberator, at the rate of one every 55 minutes.
We follow the lives of Kathryn Stillwell, an educated young woman who leaves Normal College to contribute to the war effort by working in the factory; Berenice Summers, who migrates with her husband from Tennessee, dreaming of a more successful life and to escape Jim Crow; Donna Malone, a beautician and mother of two whose husband has volunteered to serve and is stationed oversees in England , and Liz Marie Calhoun, from Hazard Kentucky, who leaves the coal mines and a fiancé in her quest for a better life. Along the way, these women overcome a multitude of challenges, face new sorrows, confront and overcome their deep-seated prejudices, as they develop genuine respect and love for each other.
While the story takes place in the not-so-distant past, the issues and challenges remain something our audiences will recognize. The play illuminates the challenges of racism, sexism, and inequality in the work place as they were then, while offering us a chance to examine what our own challenges are now.
Artistic Statement: "Willow Run will include original songs and choreography. As I write this, there are 4 composers and musicians writing songs and music and arranging classic American folk and popular music of the period; music that will be performed live during the show. The extra week of rehearsal gives us greatly needed additional time to develop not only the script, but these critical elements in telling this dynamic story with new forms of music and movement that hearken back to a pivotal moment in world history." - Guy Sanville, Artistic Director.
Cast: David Bendena, K. Edmonds, Lauren Knox, Michelle Mountain, Brad Phillips, Rhiannon Ragland, others TBD
Set Designer: Sarah Pearline
Lighting Designer: Noele Stollmack
Costumer Designer: Suzanne Young
Sound Designer: Tom Whalen
Assistant Director: Angie Kane
Stage Manager: Thomas Macias
Choreographer: Rhiannon Ragland
Props Designer: Danna Segrest