Encore Michigan

Michigan Irish Rep’s “Crowded Hour” VE Day 75th Anniversary play moves from stage to audio-play May 8

News May 05, 2020 David Kiley

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