|Poster for All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, by Peter Rothstein.|
Last week my wife and I saw Theater Latte Da’s production of All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914. We had both heard great things about this show, but hadn’t actually seen it. It’s a powerful piece of drama, created in 2007 by Latte Da’s artistic director, Peter Rothstein, with musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach. All is Calm tells the true story of a brief armistice that occurred on the trenches of the Western front during the first Christmas of World War I. Rothstein did extensive research in European archives to find the primary source documents that are the backbone of All is Calm.
However, All is Calm is more than just a narrative of stories of the Christmas truce, it also mixes together popular music of the time along with Christmas carols and traditional songs from both sides. So Haydn’s “Deutschlandlied” nestles up next to Ivor Novello’s “Keep the Home-Fires Burning” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” a chant from the 12th century. The power of All is Calm is enhanced by the fact that the twelve actors who portray all the different roles in the piece are also doing all of the singing, which features many beautiful blended harmonies. Oh, and did I mention that all of the singing is a cappella? It’s an impressive feat, and the twelve singer/actors did an amazing job.
As All is Calm unfolds, we see the brief, happy interlude as both sides lay down their arms and embrace their common humanity. However, our joy is tempered by the fact that we know these men will keep senselessly fighting and killing each other for another four years. There is a real sadness when the fighting inevitably continues, and it does make one pause and wonder what might have happened had the informal truce lasted longer than just one day.
Peter Rothstein has done an outstanding job of creating a unique and powerful statement about warfare, one that will linger in the minds and hearts of audiences for a long time. As he writes in the program notes, “Their story puts a human face on war, and that’s the story I hope to tell.”