He hated war, but he felt compelled to go back to it, again and again. He said, “There’s a war on and I’m part of it… I’ve got to go, and I hate it.”
Ernie Pyle was one of the first “embedded” reporters. The war that he wrote about was World War II. He seemed to be everywhere: with sailors and aviators, anti-aircraft gunners and mule packers, medical teams and combat engineers, and, above all, with the infantry, “the underdogs … without whom wars cannot be won.”
His dispatches, published across the country in the Scripps-Howard chain of newspapers, gave the American public an intimate account of their young generation at war – ordinary adult citizens transformed to combatants in a time of urgent need, coping with the terrific task set for them.
In his reporting, he consistently put the individual out front, identifying soldiers, wherever possible, by name and home address. He shared their dangers and chronicled the everyday events of their war. And they responded to him with the kind of reverence that no other war correspondent enjoyed. When he fell to a sniper’s bullet on a tiny island in the Pacific, the men of his unit marked the location and placed this inscription: “On this spot the 77th Infantry Division lost a Buddy. Ernie Pyle, 18 April 1945.”
I have long felt that the quiet intensity and personal scope of Ernie Pyle’s war accounts make him a perfect exponent of the kind of theatre that the Quotidian Theatre Company has been putting on stage for the past fifteen years.
On April 29th, under the auspices of Quotidian, I will perform Byline: Ernie Pyle, a one-man show consisting of Ernie Pyle’s wartime dispatches. Although I have done some editing and condensing, every word of the script was written by Ernie Pyle himself.
The narrative follows Pyle’s own odyssey through the war, from the bombing of England to the North African campaign, the invasion of Sicily, the bitter mountain fighting in Italy, the Normandy invasion, and the liberation of Paris. Throughout his dispatches, he paints intimate pictures of Americans called to enormous sacrifice, march by march, wisecrack by wisecrack, death by death. As in a pointillist painting, each brush stroke contributes color and light to the canvas. I hope to be able to paint a rich canvas for you on April 29th.
Byline: Ernie Pyle will be performed Sunday, April 29th as a complimentary after-show event following the 2 pm performance of Quotidian Theatre Company’s current production, Dancing at Lughnasa, and a brief reception. The performance will be held at The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD. The theatre is about a ten-minute walk from the Bethesda Metro Station (Red Line). There are two large parking lots just across Walsh Street, and parking is free on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased by cash or check at the door, and reserved by calling 301-816-1023 or by emailing Quotidian Theatre Company at [email protected]. For more information on this special event, please read the notice on Quotidian’s blog.
Steve LaRocque has been active in the greater Washington, DC area since 1994 as a performer, director, and playwright. He is a charter member of the Quotidian Theatre Company and has appeared in over twenty Quotidian productions; favorite roles include Willis Toome in Horton Foote’s Talking Pictures, Alfred P. Doolittle in Shaw’s Pygmalion, and Lopakhin in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.
Steve has also been writing performance pieces of all kinds, from comedy sketches to full-length lays, since 1976, while simultaneously pursuing a 29-year career as a Navy officer, from which he retired in 2005. (He suspects that may be the only playwright to have had a script produced on board a Navy submarine on patrol). Three of his recent scripts have seen productions, all by Quotidian: September 11th was a Tuesday (2003), While We Have the Light (2005), and Monday Evening 1942 (2009).