There is a sensation you get when walking into a very good museum exhibit – the ones that you know will make you think and possibly reconsider how you view the world. The ones that will touch you in some way, even though they deal with the history and stories of individuals long since dead and buried.
We have respect and even awe at the ever-expanding arc of history, yet the best exhibits and the best shows delve into the great events of history to find the experiences and stories of individuals. Those exhibits make us remember those who are gone, make us consider how they lived and what they fought for.
And that is what the accomplished storytellers, musicians, and dancers of My Civil War have done.
Author and performer Michael Vitaly Sazonov and his artists weave together words from original source material – the letters, accounts, and personal histories of soldiers and their families from the Civil War to today – with music, movement, dance, and poetry to form a tapestry of war, heartache, humor, and history. These are the stories that matter, and are often the easiest to forget in the grand sweep of human events.
The set is simple: a bare stage, piles of books, and grey blocks. Costumes by Sarah Gingold are beautiful and pop against the subtle background without drawing away from the performers’ work. Everything – lights, costumes, sound, words, movement – is in place to serve the story.
Sazonov brings joy, humor, and above all humanity to every person whose story he embodies. Dance and movement are woven throughout the entire piece, especially evocative and touching in the hands of performer Megan Harrold. And Aaron Myers’ stirring voice captivated the audience, weaving still another story into those already being told.
My Civil War
Conceived by Michael Vitaly Sazonov
at GALA Theatre at Tivoli Square
3333 14th Street NW
Washington, DC, 20010
the July 20th performance will be ASL interpreted.
Details and tickets
Rounding out this talented group of artists are singer and musician Stefan Alexander and violinist Genna Davidson. And not to be forgotten is the work of percussionist Agustin Faundez Rojas, whose work capturing the sounds of wars past and present is excellent throughout but perhaps most touching when it takes on the role of a man’s heartbeat.
Unexpected moments of levity sneak their way into the piece – be on the lookout for odes (or at least jingles) devoted to that most hardworking of legumes, the nice and lean Army Bean.
Gala Theatre – up 14th street in Columbia Heights – is a beautiful frame for the project, however the only issue of the evening came from an ever-present, distracting audio buzz. Hopefully the issue can be remedied for future performances as it made it difficult to hear some of the stories and songs.
My Civil War is, at it’s core, a tribute to the men and women who serve. It is a window in to who we were and who we are. And it is beautiful.