Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Show Must Go On

On the inside back cover of my Grandfather's diary from Cabanatuan POW camp, he has a list of shows the Mighty Cabanatuan Art Players performed during their internment. Theatrics included: Our Town, Gone with the Wind, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and (I have this on good authority) Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. I'd like to claim knowledge that my Grandfather starred as Scarlett and Snow White, but I cannot say for sure.

All gatherings had been forbidden by the Japanese, but where this is a will, there is a way. And, even the guards realized this kept their prisoners entertained and "off the streets."

A gentlemen, Chuck Kaelin, wrote to my Grandfather in 1971 his recollection of the Orchestra and Art Players. Permit me to post a few kudos to these intrepid artists:

     American salesmanship overcame the Asiatic/Oriental reasoning in spite of East is East and West is West. Inf fact, they [prisoners] were so convincing that they were given permission to set aside an area for entertainment and to erect a stage. There was no lighting in the Camp at that time, so generally at nightfall everything sort of ceased with the exception of the mosquitoes and bed bugs . . . suddenly some Houdini showed up with a couple of Coleman lanterns for the new "Open Air Playhouse!!!" Planned programs were scheduled for each Friday and Saturday nights . . . strictly musicals on Fridays, and Variety or Stage Shows on Saturdays . . . the expansion naturally produced a need for additional equipment and supplies such as: sheet music, pens and pencils, guitar strings, reeds for saxophones and clarinets, material for costumes, etc., and last but not least a PIANO!!! POW's going outside the Camp on work details began showing up with various items that could be used (the methods used in the acquisition of these items were never questioned, altho' I'm sure that the Chaplains kept busy transmitting Forgiveness prayers UPSTAIRS!!). Yep, you guessed it - the piano arrived also!!
     Behind all of the plans, expansions, and the initiation of the whole program was a guiding hand, one who had the unenviable chore of coordinating between the POW's and the Hosts; a soft-spoken, witty Texan, a true friend, a gentleman from the "old school" - Col. O.O. Wilson, USA . . . the Director.

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