WILSON, N.C. – Imagine for a moment that something as simple as the game of baseball could become a cure for conflict. While that notion might seem a bit far-fetched to many, baseball plays a big role in helping bridge the gap between divergent cultures in world wars, and right here at home. That notion is explored in “Hangar Flying: Reflections on War and Baseball,” a new and original play adapted by Theatre at Barton from the historical novel by associate professor of art at Barton, Gérard Carl Lange. This production, directed by Adam Twiss, director of Theatre at Barton, opens to the public on Thursday, Nov. 13, in Kennedy Family Theatre on the campus of Barton College. Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, and conclude with a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m. An invitation-only preview will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 12.
The inspiration for this original theatrical show comes from a very personal source. In his novel, which is in the final stages of completion, Lange draws upon intimate family ties and a lifelong curiosity for history. “Hangar Flying: Reflections on War and Baseball” is a rich, wartime tapestry, woven from the memoirs and anecdotes of family members both real and imagined. Struggling to grapple with the purpose of war, and thrust into a foreign conflict zone for the second time in a decade, beleaguered American servicemen found a familiar solace playing baseball with their Korean counterparts in their spare time. Despite language and cultural barriers, both sides soon fostered a commonality and a strong bond.
“The light-hearted, poignant epic takes the audience on a journey through World War II and Korean combat,” described Twiss, “where characters gain insight into culture and personal humanity through a shared international touchstone of baseball.”
An amalgam of fact and fiction, this story takes one other element into consideration of its development: hangar flying. In its most basic description, “hangar flying” is a form of story telling. Seasoned pilots passed down larger-than-life accounts of battle to young aviators still new to combat. Grounded by a practical lesson, these stories were sometimes told with libation in hand, and came out as semi-tall tales, but always maintained a real and sober point of consideration. Ultimately, as Lange explains, his novel attempts to make the best sense of the realities of the Korean War and possibilities created by disparate tellings of his grandfather’s stories from his service there. A central theme of the narrative is that somewhere between fact, fiction, and hangar flying, is the truth.
“To research this novel, I wrote down all of the war stories my grandfather told me, about being a pilot in two wars, about flying in Korea and Japan,” shared Lange. “Then, I interviewed every living relative who might have heard some of those same stories from him. The neatest thing about all of this oral history is that none of the stories completely matched. They were all slightly distinctive, but were shared with the same accuracy and conviction that I myself recalled. So, maybe we all remember my grandpa’s stories correctly, but it was he who told them a little differently.”
This play features a talented and eclectic team of Barton students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as members from the community. The production team includes Twiss as director and writer, Lange as principal writer and dramaturg, Chris Bernier as technical director and lighting & scenic director, Denise Shumaker as costume designer, and Tia Broady as stage manager. Cast and crew include seniors Stephanie Barsanti, Christopher Byrd, Isabella Gano, Brian McNair, Katie Wilkinson, and Taylor Williams; juniors Allison Dellinger, Hannah Finkelstein, and Sarah Hall; sophomore Luar Mercado Lopez; freshmen Beth Jarratt, Sarah Kirk, Samantha Larkin, Justin Mann, Victoria Myrick, and Lynsey Noe; faculty Patrick McConnell and Todd Wilkinson; food services director Tony Tilley; alumnus Wesley Pridgen; and community members Fletcher Duke and James Whitley.
“A unique hallmark of the artistic programming at Barton College might be summed up with the term ‘collaborative,’” explained Twiss. “Collaboration across disciplines, community, and students is essential to any successful arts program, and creates a far more enriching experience for all involved.”
General admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and members of the military, and $5 for non-Barton students. Tickets are free for Barton College students, faculty, and staff, and are available at the door (or in advance at www.barton.edu/theatre) with a valid Barton ID.
For additional information or tickets, please contact Twiss at (252) 399-6484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.