Youth Theatre's 'Red Badge of Courage' recalls Civil War

Youth Theatre's 'Red Badge of Courage' recalls Civil War

January 31st, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Chattnow Art

A young Union soldier, portrayed by Andrew Miller, left, awaits orders while a lieutenant, Jordan Alexander, center, and a colonel, Ward Fleissner, plot strategy for the next battle in the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's "The Red Badge of Courage."

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

What: "The Red Badge of Courage"

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays through Feb. 15; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Feb. 16-17

Where: MainStage, Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.

Admission: $8-$10

Phone: 267-8534

Website: www.theatrecentre.com

If nothing else, the actors in the Chattanooga Theatre Centre production of "The Red Badge of Courage" will be the most authentically outfitted in the area.

But director Chuck Tuttle says the Youth Theatre show -- held on the MainStage -- should be seen for more than just the uniforms provided by local re-enactor and historian Louis Varnell

"It's the 150th anniversary of [the Civil War battles around Chattanooga]," he says. "It's theatrical but authentic stuff. It's worth seeing. The young actors are doing some amazing [work]."

"The Red Badge of Courage," adapted by Tuttle from the Stephen Crane novel, focuses on a young Union Army private who searches for courage as he is tested during the war.

The most difficult part, the director says, was having to take the author's "very beautiful, lyrical language" and translate that through the action of the characters.

Part of that, including the opening and the last line, is done through a narrator, he says.

Tuttle says since neither he nor the actors -- mostly ages 14-17 -- have experience in a war, understanding the Civil War setting has taken a little doing.

"Getting that into kids today is a little hard," he says. "I'm not sure what [combat] is like. It's an acting challenge."

However, Tuttle says Varnell has been a valuable asset, providing all the costuming and equipment and even enticing some of his re-enactor friends to play background roles in the 20-person cast.

"[The actors will] ask him what this was or what happened here -- all sorts of questions," he says.

Tuttle says the play deals with war, people get shot and die, and there is a minor bit of bad language.

But if students are mature enough to read the book, he says, they are old enough to see the play.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.