POINT LOOKOUT, MO. — College of the Ozarks theatre students and sponsors traveled in England and France May 16-24, 2016. The 21-member cast toured sites in England and France as a thank you from the College and President Jerry C. Davis for giving more than 18 performances of the patriotic play, “Railway to Heaven: A True Story of an Ozarks P.O.W.,” last fall. The play will be performed again in October and November 2016.
The play is based upon the true events depicted in the book, “Miracle in the Ozarks,” written by President Davis, and the story was adapted for stage by Mark Young, professor of theatre and play director. It follows the life story of Pfc. Roy Hopper, who was a student at The School of the Ozarks in 1943. He was drafted into the Army to serve in WWII and was involved in the invasion of Normandy in France, only later to be captured by the German Army.
This true story of an American hero was enjoyed by more than 4,000 guests in the Royal Oak Forum of The Keeter Center on the College of the Ozarks campus last fall.
Senior Josiah Mullins, who plays Roy Hopper, thought about the Allied troops as his group explored Utah Beach: “Knowing their sacrifice paved the way to Allied victory brought such profound feelings of relief and peace of a magnitude I could never have expected to find on a simple beach. Words cannot describe how blessed I am to have been a part of this experience, to relive this amazing part in our country and the world’s history.”
The students and sponsors all were thankful to the College and to Davis for making the trip possible.
“Our students now have a greater understanding of the events of WWII and what it must have been like for the characters they portray to have lived and fought in that era of American military history,” said Mark Young. “They took advantage of the opportunity to gather sand from Utah Beach in Normandy to bring back for Dr. Davis and for Roy Hopper! It was apparent they were overwhelmed with emotions at times.”
The six sponsors included the following: Mark Young, professor of theatre; Lisa Young, associate professor of theatre; Nick Sharp, dean of students, and his wife, Lee; Valorie Coleman, public relations director; and Natalie Rasnick, director of development.
Students on the trip included seniors Madeline Clem, Nathaniel Finck, Caroline Jackson, Kynzee Miller, Josiah Mullins, Triston Newman, Miranda Palmer, Caden Peterson, Emily Rector, Devan Spady and Lucas Straw; juniors were Melissa Davis, Sierra Johnson, Kaitlin Jones and Jonathan Kirkland; sophomore Caleb Clere; and 2016 graduates were Jason Sorrell, Elizabeth Stuart, Isaac Weaver and Josh Whisler. Additional theatre members were who were not able to travel included staff member Jesse Easdon, lighting and sound designer, and student Blake Nosalek, actor.
Additional stops on the itinerary included a performance of “Les Miserables” in London’s West End; an afternoon in Sainte-Mère-Église, France, the first town liberated by Allied forces in 1944; museums including the Imperial War Museum in London; Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, the landing beaches of the Normandy Invasion; the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France; and Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England.
To view the trip blog, visit http://www.cofo.edu/Page/Students/Academic-Programs/Theatre.201.html
Photo 1: College of the Ozarks theatre students and sponsors on Utah Beach in France visit the site of the WWII Normandy Invasion. The group toured sites in England and France as a thank you from the College and President Jerry C. Davis for giving more than 18 performances of the patriotic play, “Railway to Heaven: A True Story of an Ozarks P.O.W.,” last fall. The play will be performed again in October and November 2016.
Photo 2: The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, has more than 9,000 graves of American soldiers who gave their lives defending freedom.
Photo 3: Madeline Clem and Josiah Mullins, who play lead characters Barbara and Roy in “Railway to Heaven,” in front of Buckingham Palace in Westminster, England.
Photo 4: Triston Newman, Nathaniel Finck, Josh Whisler, Sierra Johnson, Devan Spady, Elizabeth Stuart, and Caleb Clere (back row) tour the streets of London and stop for a photo in front of the iconic, red phone booth.