The holidays have long been a magical time of year. Despite the annual cynicism that comes with Christmas songs in August and Black Friday that starts on regular Wednesday, the chill in the air and the warmth of a fire contributes to wonderful traditions for families and kids from one to 92.
What is it about the months of November and December that have such a hold on us? Bonding time with family. The joy and purity of a warm gathering with those close to you. Giving the perfect gift. And for so many, the abundance of miracles.
City Lights Theater Company’s newest world premiere examines one of the greatest miracles in history, which was born from the battlefields of World War I. The new and original piece, entitled “Truce: A Christmas Wish From the Great War,” examines one of the most unlikely stories ever to be born out of the blood and brutality of battle. Written by associate artistic director Kit Wilder and company member Jeffrey Bracco, the show runs in downtown San Jose through Dec. 21st. Both Wilder and Bracco spent the past two years researching the show and reading letters from soldiers who were involved in order to shape the story.
In times of war, fraternizing with the person who killed a comrade is very much on the outlandish side. Yet in France in 1914, during one of most bitter battles in history, a miracle took place. Known as the Christmas truce, young soldiers crossed battle lines and joined together for all of humanity, setting down their weapons to exchange gifts, play soccer and sing songs. Inspired by a suggestion from Pope Benedict XV, who recommended a temporary cease fire among the warring nations of Britain and Germany, young soldiers unofficially put down their weapons, with some even exchanging gifts.
Wilder, a self-proclaimed history buff, jumped at the opportunity to work with Bracco on a story he finds simply amazing.
“I’m a sucker for stories about forgiveness, a sucker for the unlikely coming to pass,” said Wilder, who is also directing the show. “The story is a shining example of the better angels of our nature. It’s an example of that in the midst of our worst, we have the ability to achieve the best.”
Another thing Wilder is a sucker for? Christmas. Without the holiday of Christmas, a miracle such as a truce is probably not possible.
“Christmas as a time of year, almost regardless of faith, is a time of miracles, and the truce itself was a miracle, a product of that environment,” said Wilder. “We go through the year wishing it could be Christmas every day, when people are a little nicer, a little kinder, exchange gifts and have all of that wonderful human connection.
“Men of all faiths celebrated the season during the truce – Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, seeing themselves in each other’s eyes. In the most restricted sense, that’s what Christmas is all about. And in the Christian sense, whether or not you believe in his divinity, wasn’t that the message of Christ?”
Ivette Deltoro, who plays the role of Clara Krieger, is one of the members of the young cast that is fascinated by the truce. She has connected deeply with the story, especially considering those who were involved were young like she is.
“What’s impacted me the most is that this wasn’t something that was made up, it actually happened,” said Deltoro. “You don’t think something like that would be possible. But on one magical night, they sang songs and ate together. It’s a great reminder that there can be peace in the world.”
Unfortunately, there have been many wars since the first World War. Every generation in this country has had a war that belonged to them. And even though World War I only exists to Deltoro in history books and films, her connection runs deeper than that.
“These soldiers were constantly being told, ‘You have to shoot this person,’” said Deltoro. “But they took a chance and shook hands, played soccer together, and formed connections in such high stakes circumstances. I think that’s what really resonates with me, the thought that it’s possible to do that.
“There was a tiny bit of peace that came out of it, and that’s a lovely reminder that we are all human.”
In a huge twist of irony, World War I is known as “The war to end all wars.” Yet, there have been many others – the second World War, Korea, Vietnam, and now our modern conflicts in the middle east. And through all of these wars, Wilder finds it moving that all soldiers dream of peace.
“It’s utterly fascinating that men can fight, yet dream of always laying down their weapons,” said Wilder. “Against all odds, there was a natural instinct for connection, and being at peace prevailed for a day or two in the midst of the horror that was World War I.
“After the truce, you had men that didn’t want to shoot each other anymore. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
City Lights Theater Company presents the world premiere of
“Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War”
Written by Kit Wilder and Jeffrey Bracco
Directed by Kit Wilder
Through Dec. 21st
City Lights Theater
529 S. Second St., San Jose, CA
City Lights Theatre
529 S. Second St., San Jose, CA
Tickets range from $17 – $35
For tickets, call (408) 295-4200 or visit www.cltc.org