Armistice Day play explores Madison County in first world war


On the centenary of the Armistice that ended World War I, Oneida Public Library in collaboration with the Oneida Community Mansion House will present a readers theater piece on actual Madison County people swept up in the American war effort of 1917-1918.

“Armistice: A Pageant in Voices” is composed of contemporary newspaper reports and letters connected by a narrative. It’s scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 11, at 2 p.m. in the Big Hall of the Oneida Community Mansion House. Admission at the Mansion House for the performance of “Armistice” is $5, children enter for free.

The script is by Tom Murray, using research compiled by Madison County Historian Matthew Urtz, archive material from the Madison County Historical Society and resources in the library’s Local History Collection. The music has been arranged by Melinda Phoenix-Heart and presents the popular music of the time, including songs composed as morale boosters for the folks at home and the soldiers at the Western Front.

The cast features Adam Chandler, Ken Drake and Virginia Drake portraying various characters, both civilian and military, while Tom Murray acts as narrator. Soprano Sarah Davies Hasegawa and pianist Melinda Phoenix-Heart will perform in a prelude to the play a sampling of the popular songs of the World War I period. Songs also act as commentaries and interludes during the play, and Chandler and Virginia Drake will lend their voices to the performance.

For more information, stop by the Oneida Library, 220 Broad St., or call 315-363-3050.

Chandler, a 2011 graduate from Vernon Verona Sherrill High School, teaches music at VVS after earning a bachelor’s degree in music education at the Crane School of Music. He also advises the VVS High School Drama Club and directs the spring high-school musical.

Virginia and Ken Drake return to the stage after their last foray directing and acting in the OPL Players 2017 production of “The Game of Life,” a comic take on the Upstate Women’s Rights Movement in the form of the first all girls baseball team established in Peterboro in 1868. Both Drakes have long been involved in student dramatic and musical productions in Oneida and at VVS.

Sarah Hasegawa, a former Madison County Historian, has frequently appeared at the OPL to conduct special children’s programs and to perform in concerts and theatrical productions, such as “Christmas by Injunction” in 2011 and “The Game of Life.”

Hasegawa has been a member of the Syracuse Opera Chorus for several years and regularly performs in its productions, most recently in the 2018 production of Verdi’s “Macbeth.” She has also appeared in several roles for the Oswego Opera Theater, including a spirit in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Grisette in Lehar’s “The Merry Widow” and Katisha in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Over the years, Hasegawa has sung many Gilbert and Sullivan roles, most recently the Duchess in “The Gondoliers” performed at the Earlville Opera House.

Melinda Phoenix-Heart, a graduate of the Crane School of Music, currently teaches music at Otto Shortell Middle School in the Oneida City School District. In addition to giving private lessons in voice and piano, she is active in student choral work and other community musical projects. She is the choral and music director at the First Presbyterian Church in Oneida.

For the past 17 years, the OPL’s Assistant Director Tom Murray has created and produced dramatic works for both adults and children for the radio and the stage. He has produced and written or adapted several children’s theater plays, adult readers’ theater pieces and radio plays with both adults and young people. In 2017, to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage in New York State, he wrote and produced “The Game of Life.”

The production is made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York Council on the Arts with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and administered by CNY Arts.


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