Billy Bishop Goes to War
Old Creamery Theatre — April 9-26 (See website for showtimes)
While plenty of Canadian actors and writers have become part of the American arts scene, Americans don’t pay as much attention to works that proudly display Canadian origins. We also don’t devote as much artistic attention to World War I. Last summer marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of The Great War, but it received barely a mention in the news. The U.S. didn’t enter the war until 1917, and thus did not experience the same level of devastation as the other Allied Powers.
Canada entered the war in 1914 as part of the United Kingdom’s military forces. The war remained part of the Canadian conscious in a way that never happened with Americans, and it is this history that inspired the most popular original Canadian musical. The Old Creamery Theatre is staging Billy Bishop Goes to War on their Studio Stage. It is the first play in their season devoted to plays about different facets of WWI and WWII.
Billy Bishop was a flying ace (the kind of person Snoopy pretended to be) and he remains a national hero in Canada. Rather than depict his adventures in a grand epic, the musical turns inward. With a cast of two and one piano, an older Bishop narrates the story of how he changed from a brash young soldier to an icon. While filled with tales of derring-do, the intimate setting and personal perspective inspire complex discussions on the narratives of war, nationalism and heroism.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 174