Theater Professor Commemorates Civil War ‘Jubilee of Peace’

Posted: July 18, 2011 at 2:27 pm, Last Updated: July 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Ken Elston, theater professor

Ken Elston, chair of Mason's Department of Theater. Creative Services photo

By Catherine Ferraro

In July 1911, on the 50th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas, veterans from both the Union and Confederate forces united on the courthouse grounds in Manassas, Va. Instead of fighting one another, the soldiers exchanged a friendly handshake for the National Jubilee of Peace.

Now, as part of the 150th anniversary commemoration of the American Civil War, this momentous and often forgotten occasion will be re-created in an original theatrical production. The event takes place on Thursday, July 21, at 4 p.m. at the Old Manassas Courthouse.

The original short play was written and directed by Ken Elston, chair and associate professor in Mason’s Department of Theater.

According to Elston, his interest in writing the script was spurred by his experience as artistic director of Footsteps in Time. The nonprofit organization aims to advance history education and promote a deeper understanding of contemporary America through an examination of history through theater, film and the arts.

“I am honored to be a part of the re-creation of this historic event,” says Elston. “The National Jubilee of Peace helps us better understand our history and teaches us about how we came together as a great country.”

Elston says that throughout the 90-minute production, audiences will be transported back to the turn of the century with vintage vehicles, flags and period costumes. With a mixture of music, comedy and drama, the production brings together historical and modern-day perspectives of the event.

More than 60 costumed actors will portray Civil War veterans, cavalry and militia, as well as other dignitaries and spectators who were present at the 1911 National Jubilee of Peace. The performers include professional and local actors, as well as elected officials representing the City of Manassas and Prince William County.

Some of the most prominent historical figures who will be portrayed are President Howard Taft and former Virginia Gov. William Hodges. Actors will deliver actual speeches given by these officials, while current leaders will address how the Civil War has shaped the nation today.

The re-enactment of the National Jubilee of Peace is free and open to the public. The event kicks off Virginia’s four-year Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the Civil War. More than 80 events will take place this year at various locations throughout the City of Manassas and Prince William County.

“This four-year celebration will allow us to explore the impacts of the conflict and let us be a part of some of the events that forever changed our nation,” says Elston.

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit the website.

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