When Singing Stopped A War

By on December 4, 2018

David Darrow in “All Is Calm” (Photo: Dan Norman)

The first battle of Fallujah unfolded as David Darrow was a senior at Verona High School. The second battle for that Iraqi city followed, as did Operation Desert Shield, civil wars in Libya and Syria, and countless episodes of ethnic violence in many corners of the world. Now, Darrow is on stage in New York City in a show about the conflict that some once thought would end all wars, World War I.

All Is Calm”, which runs only through December 30, is about the Christmas truce of 1914, when Allied and German soldiers put down their weapons, left their trenches and met their enemies on the no-man’s-land in-between. The show is told through the songs they sang and the thoughts they shared in letters sent home.

“The world is so divided now,” says Darrow, “and their experience of coming together is so extraordinary. If these guys can do it in a war, is civility for all of us that far out of reach?”

Darrow, second from left, rotates through several characters during the show. (Photo: Dan Norman)

Darrow, who graduated VHS with the class of 2004, starts the play as one of the Allied troops, who come from different regiments, before rotating through other roles. “I start as a Scottish solider, but we never really play any character for more than a minute,” he says. Thanks to the letters and photos sent home by combatants, Darrow has gotten to know many of those characters. “One soldier wrote about his best friend who died, and I have a photo of the two of them on my nightstand.” The war resumed when the holidays were over, and there was never another Christmas truce in the conflict, which would go on to leave as many as 25 million people dead and injured.

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The show is the work of the Minneapolis-based theater company Theater Latté Da, which Darrow got to know during eight years spent in that city after graduating from college. It has been performed around the U.S. for several years, but this is the first time that it has been staged in New York, and the first time that Darrow has been in the cast.

Darrow performed in nearly all Verona High School shows while a student here, but notes that his biggest role in VHS arts was as a trumpet player. “Band was my main thing back then,” says Darrow, who was chosen for both the Regents and All-State bands. “I was on track to be a musician.” He still plays, in his own shows and those of others, but says his main instrument now is the guitar. Darrow, who is a founding member of 7th House Theater in Brooklyn, credits his Verona teachers, Erik Lynch and Maurice Moran and Fran Young, both since retired, with shaping him as a performer, and is indebted to Dr. Marie Meyer for believing in him as a writer.

When “All Is Calm” wraps on December 30, Darrow will move on to other projects. First up in February is a Seattle staging of “The Passage”, a musical that Darrow wrote about his dad’s unsuccessful battle with cancer 11 years ago. “It is told through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy who comes home to find a monster living in the basement,” he says. In April, he will be performing in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street” at Asolo Repertory in Sarasota, Fla.

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“All of the different things, the music and the writing, having a company, it all happened fluidly,” Darrow says. “I didn’t plan for any of those. You can’t just be an actor any more, you have to diversify. That’s been the way that I have been able to survive.”

“All Is Calm” is playing now through December 30 at the Sheen Center,  18 Bleecker Street, in New York City. You can find ticket information here.

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