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updated: 3/28/2011 3:00 PM

Elmhurst play observes Civil War anniversary

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Daily Herald staff report

Elmhurst will mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with "Soldier, Come Home," a play based on letters from the conflict that opens April 14 at GreenMan Theatre.

The show is being produced in conjunction with this year's Elmhurst Reads campaign, designed to get residents reading about the War between the States.

The play by Frank W. Wicks opened in 2002 in Brunswick, Maine, and has won strong reviews by drawing audiences into the lives of one family dealing with war, separation and hope.

"Soldier, Come Home" takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 14-16, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 17, at First United Methodist Church, 232 S. York St.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Free parking is available.

Elmhurst resident Phil Hendricks will direct the show.

The play is being presented as an added production in GreenMan Theatre's season, part of commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

Its author, a founding member of the Long Wharf Theatre, transformed the letters of his great-grandparents, Philip and Mary Pringle, family members and friends, into a play. Mary Pringle wrote to her husband from Armagh, Pa., while he responded from several major Civil War battle sites, including Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, the siege of Petersburg and Appomattox.

In 1950, the long-forgotten letters, written from 1859-1865, were discovered in a shoe box in the attic of the home of Wicks' grandparents, John S. Wicks and Sadie Pringle Wicks, in South Fork, Pa. Wicks' father, Frank Wicks, Sr., began to transcribe the letters. After his father's death, Wicks continued the project and began work on "Soldier, Come Home."

"I was struck from the beginning by the emotional content of the letters," Wicks said. "They were filled with conflicts, complicated relationships, humor, enormous difficulties and struggles for survival. I felt the energy of the letters, plus their historical importance, would make for an interesting dramatic presentation."

The show runs about an hour with no intermission.

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