A magnificent theatre run culminated on Nov. 10 as 13 current and former NWS students gave their final performance of the original play, “Crates of Thunder.” Students toured the play through England last summer (see NWS teacher Tamara Bunnell’s blog) and gave four other performances upon their return, with the finale occurring at nearby Raisbeck Aviation High School in Tukwila. There, students received a standing ovation from over 400 audience members, including some very special guests.
The play, written by NWS teacher Laura Ferri in collaboration with some of the cast, tells the story of the American Eighth Army Air Force in England, who flew the Boeing-built B-17, and their interactions with the British people and the Royal Air Force during WWII, as well as workers on the American home-front who built and ferried the planes across the country. More a form of living documentary theater than a play with an A to Z plot arc, the play contains many scenes derived from the real life experiences of local WWII veterans and others who lived through the war. The stories were gathered by members of the NWS 7th grade Humanities classes in oral history interviews conducted over the last two years. Of special note is a scene written by cast member Frank Garland, award-winning young playwright, who created it with the support of Hollywood screenwriter and Battle of the Bulge veteran Stewart Stern. The scene, one of the most moving of the play, features a poem written by Stern during his service entitled “We Were Three.” Stern was in the audience at Raisbeck Aviation High School and stood afterward to express his deep appreciation for all the play addressed.
Said Stern: “This should be performed forever.”
Also in the audience was J.W. “Limey” Roundhill, who served in both the British and American air forces. In one scene based on Roundhill’s story, a B-17 crewmember asks another if he has his lucky talisman, a bible, tucked into his boot. When Roundhill stood to thank the students, he pulled out the real life bible in question, explaining it had belonged to his father who was a soldier in World War I.
Says Laura, “It was the most fulfilling way to end the run, honoring the men and women who served during the war, and having so many of them there with us that day.”
“This project has been a true labor of love,” said Tamara, “and we couldn’t have asked for a better group of students to work with. They have worked tirelessly on top of already busy schedules, and their unflagging commitment and growing connection to each other and the people we’ve met along the way has been a joy to witness.”