A series of vignettes about life on the home front during World War II titled “Kilroy Was Here” will be presented by the theatre program at Rogers State University on Friday, Nov. 11.
The vignettes will be presented as a special tribute to present-day soldiers, veterans and their families on Veteran’s Day.
The production, which will run for a total of 35 minutes, will begin at 8:05 p.m. in the Will Rogers Auditorium on the RSU campus in Claremore. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and free for students, faculty and veterans. In addition, a special performance will be held free of charge at the Veteran’s Center in Claremore during the afternoon.
The vignettes were written by award-winning playwright Constance Alexander, who is also a novelist, newspaper columnist and producer of radio documentaries. The short stories have been referred to as a “spoken opera” told from the viewpoints of children. They were written after Alexander listened to stories told by adults who grew up during the war, and have been performed in school and community theaters across the nation.
“Kilroy Was Here” takes its name from the graffiti commonly employed by soldiers during the war to mark their presence on the battlefield. The first drawing of Kilroy is believed to have been created by shipyard inspector James Kilroy. He chalked the words “Kilroy Was Here” with an accompanying drawing of a GI, on the bulkhead of a ship. The troops on the ship noticed the graffiti and began placing it wherever they landed.
After the graffiti gained popularity during World War II, the Transit Company of America held a contest, offering the prize of a trolley car to the person who could offer proof of being the “real” Kilroy. Almost 40 men stepped forward to make that claim, but James Kilroy brought along officials from the shipyard to help prove his authenticity. He won the prize of the trolley car which he gave to his children as a gift.
Since then, men and women enlisted in all branches of the U.S. military have scrawled the words in unlikely locations, including the top of Mt. Everest, on the Statue of Liberty and under the Arche de Triumphe in Paris.
Alexander was nominated for a Peabody Award for “Promises to Keep,” a documentary radio series about end-of-life issues. A former AT&T executive, she completed her undergraduate work at The College of New Jersey and University of Copenhagen. She has a master’s degree in education and an MBA from Pace University in New York. A lifelong New Jersey resident, she married artist and coffin maker Roy Davis in 1988. They live in Murray, Ky, where he operates Bert & Bud’s Vintage Coffins and she writes a column for the Murray Ledger and Times.
For more information on RSU theatre productions, or to get information about participating in the productions, contact Dr. David Blakely, assistant professor and coordinator of the RSU theatre program, at (918) 343-7521.