Civil War set to song at RCC

By: By Jaymie Baxley -

LUMBERTON — Purple Door Productions will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the nation’s deadliest war with a musical drama at Robeson Community College on Friday, Oct. 16.

“The Civil War” features songs and scenes based on diary entries, letters from soldiers and dispatches from the front lines.

The story spans all four years of the war and is told from the perspectives of the men and women who were swept up in the fight. Walt Whitman, Fredrick Douglas, Sojourner Truth and Abraham Lincoln are among the many historical figures portrayed in the show.

“It’s not about the battles and the big events; there’s no mention of Sherman or Lee or anybody like that,” said Jeanne Koonce, artistic director of Purple Door Productions. “All of the lyrics in the show are directly taken from existing documents, and what’s talked about is husbands, wives, sons and daughters. It’s a dramatized concert that’s meant to make you think about the price we pay.”

More than 620,000 soldiers died in combat during the Civil War, marking the largest death toll of any conflict the country has fought in.

“You’re talking about a time-frame where that kind of loss decimated entire communities,” Koonce said. “The show is a living history lesson that we thought could tie in to the commemoration of the end of this horrifying event.”

“The Civil War” was co-written by Frank Wildhorn, a British playwright best known for penning the Broadway adaption of “Jekyll & Hyde.” He also wrote the lyrics for Whitney Houston’s No. 1 hit, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.”

The Tony-nominated musical premiered on Broadway in 1999. A version of it was performed in Washington, D.C., earlier this year at Ford’s Theatre — the historic opera house where Lincoln was assassinated.

“A friend of mine sent me the score a couple of years ago,” Koonce said. “Listening to it, I just thought it was amazing music; the songs are so poignant and beautiful. It’s absolutely a singer’s show and I was fortunate to get some really good local singers who can handle the material.”

“The Civil War” will be presented inside the A.D. Lewis auditorium at 7:30 p.m. each day from Oct. 15 to Oct. 17. Matinee performances will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 16 and Oct. 17. An exhibition of Civil War-inspired paintings will be on display inside the lobby of the auditorium.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for students. Pre-sale tickets can be purchased on campus at the Robeson Community College Foundation office, or online at

A pair of performances will be held for students across the Public Schools of Robeson County at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 16.

Robeson Community College is located at 5160 Fayetteville Road in Lumberton. For information or to make reservations, call Purple Door Productions at 910-258-0787 or visit

Jaymie Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5771 or by email at
Purple Door stages tribute to the past

By Jaymie Baxley