Michigan Irish Rep’s “Crowded Hour” VE Day 75th Anniversary play moves from stage to audio-play May 8
DEARBORN, Mich.–The Michigan Irish Repertory Theater on May 8 will premiere The Crowded Hour: The Story of VE Day in 1945.” The play, performed as an audio play due to the current “shelter at home” order in Michigan, will launch on EncoreMichigan’s website on May 8, the 75th Anniversary of VE Day [Victory in Europe Day].
“This is an important anniversary and historic event, and the subject is personal to me,” said David Kiley, Publisher of EncoreMichigan, which serves the Michigan theater community and industry, and Artistic Director of The Michigan Irish Repertory Theater.
The audio recording of the play will be available at 7:30PM EST on May 8 on EncoreMichigan.com, 75 years to the day that the world was on tenterhooks awaiting confirmation that the war in Europe was really over.
Charles Kiley, David Kiley’s father, was a war correspondent for the Stars and Stripes armed forces newspaper, and was assigned to cover General Dwight Eisenhower in the final months of the war in 1945. For about 20 hours, Kiley was the only reporter allowed to cover the surrender negotiations between the German high command and Eisenhower’s staff in Rheims France. After the Germans surrendered in France, they had to also surrender to the Russians in Berlin.
“The double surrender caused a great confusion as they were more than a day apart,” says David Kiley. “Our play captures the scene at Rheims, as well as the movements of German characters, American characters and a sense of what the media was doing on this day 75 years ago.”
“To my knowledge, these events and these characterizations and this story has never been put to stage or screen,” says Kiley. The story and dialogue is all based on actual reporting. “Dialogue and the news reports that are embedded in the play are based on my father’s letters, his reporting, actual broadcast reports, reporting in the Stars and Stripes and the scholarship of Sir Martin Gilbert in his seminal work: The Day The War Ended: May 8, 1945.”
Some of what is in the play has never been reported. “My father told me a story of a wire story prematurely reporting the German surrender, and that he had to go see Eisenhower in the middle of the night, a visit that prompted the General to call Churchill in front of him. That story has never been reported, but it’s in the play,” says Kiley.
The reason for producing “Crowded Hour” under the Michigan Irish Repertory Theater banner is that Charles Kiley was Irish-American, coming from a second-generation Irish family in Jersey City.
The Crowded Hour is written, directed and produced by David Kiley. Sound direction and engineering by Henry Kiley. The cast, each of whom plays multiple roles is as follows:
Charles Kiley: John DeMerell
Ed Kennedy: David Kiley
Gen. Bedell Smith: Tony Amato
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower: Mike Olsem
Kay Summersby (Eisenhower’s driver and secretary): Sarah Brown
Dick Underwood (Eisenhowerstaff driver): Ben Apostle
Walter Simpson (Eisenhower’s PR man): Alan Madlane
German Adm. Alfred Jodl: John DeMerell
Hans Georg Friedburg: Tony Amato
Winston Churchill: David Kiley
Josef Stalin: Alan Madlane
AP Editor Taylor: Jenna Kellie Pittman
AP Editor Frank: Henry Kiley
Concentration Camp Survivor: Jenna Kellie Pittman
German Woman: Sarah Brown
German Mother: Meg McNamee
German Broadcaster: Dan Morrison
German General Huffmeier: David Kiley
King George: Dan Morrison
Harry Truman: Tony Amato
Karl Brauer (Hitler Youth): Henry Kiley
German Jewish Refugee: Danielle Peck
Karl Donitz (German President): Mike Olsem
American GI: Ben Apostle
Renate Hoffman: Jenna Kelly Pittman
SHAEF Aide: Danielle Peck
SHAEF Orderly: Henry Kiley
Reporter Ernie Leiser: Ben Apostle
Radio Broadcaster: David Kiley
Narrator: Meg McNamee