With Veterans Day coming this next week, it gives our nation an opportunity to celebrate and pay respects to those that have served in the branches of our military. With the Navarro College Veterans Office observing Monday, Nov. 11 with a Veterans Day Commemoration, Dr. Shellie O'Neal of the Navarro College Department of Theatre is sharing her love of country with an hour-long, one-woman show.
O'Neal's show, “God Bless America: A World War II Radio Hour,” a free performance debuting at the Dawson Building in Navarro College's Albritton Building. Originally written as a show for her church, the performance celebrates the country's national anthems, hymns, D-Day prayers, and quotes from our founding fathers and inspirational presidents.
Fascinated by the era of WWII, O'Neal saw the show as a way to share the origins of America and how these anthems came to be, while paying tribute to her grandparents and their era, a time that O'Neal refers to as “the greatest generation.”
In order to create the part of radio personality “Sally Brennan” for her narrative, O'Neal traveled to several places throughout America to research the founding fathers. Her visits included Washington D.C., Bethesda, Maryland, Williamsburg and Richmond in Virginia.
In Baltimore, Maryland, she visited Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key penned the “Star Spangled Banner”, and Boston, Massachusetts, where Julia Ward Howe wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” These experiences confirmed to O'Neal that the subject matter would be a good vehicle to write a play, and would better help students connect with the lyrical meanings.
“We sing these songs, but we don't know what their context is,” O'Neal said. “They take on more meaning once we know their story.”
O'Neal was encouraged by Navarro College District President Dr. Kevin Fegan to perform the show during Monday's commemoration. This will be O'Neal's fifth performance of the production for the public.
“If I can serve the country, even in this small way, it's a joy for me,” O'Neal said.
What: God Bless America: A WWII Radio Hour
When: 6:10 p.m., Monday, Nov. 11
Where: Navarro College, Dawson Auditorium in the Albritton Building