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West coast premiere of Civil War-themed ‘Battledrum’ at Sierra Madre Playhouse

Sierra Madre Playhouse presents the west coast premiere of Civil War-themed “Battledrum.” With book and lyrics by Doug Cooner and music by Lee Ahlin, the show is directed by Christian Lebano. The show opens 7 p.m. Friday, March 7 and 7 p.m. Saturday, March 8, 2014.

Alexandra Wright and David Crane.
Gina Long

“Battledrum,” set during the Civil War, depicts the stories of three drummer boys serving in the Union Army. There’s Rufus, a Kentucky war orphan recruited after his home has been burned to the ground; Jackson, bound into service by his parents; and George Washington, a runaway slave who got lost on the path of the Underground Railroad.

Drummer boys are important, as they are pivotal to the conduct of a skirmish. But the three lads are nonetheless youths, thrown into the heat of the bloodiest conflict ever conducted on American soil. Can they possibly survive the hell that is war? And if they survive, will they remain whole?

“Battledrum” embraces an important segment of American history, a traumatic chapter when courage, brotherhood and patriotism could keep you alive.

Cooney’s play “The Final Tour” was work-shopped at Sundance Theater Labs with Moises Kaufman directing John Neville and Mary Lou Rosato. He collaborated with composer David O on an original youth musical, “The Legend of Alex,” produced by the Mark Taper Forum P.L.A.Y., and the musical adaptation of George Saunders' “The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip,” developed at the Kennedy Center's New Visions/New Voices for the Taper P.L.A.Y production, which was in the opening season of the Douglas.

Ovation Award-winner Ameenah Kaplan is drum master and choreographer.

“Battledrum” is double-cast. The “Gettysburgcast includes Joseph Ahern, David Crane, Will Cespedes, DJ Harner, Donzell Lewis, James Simenc and Alexandra Wright. The “Vicksburgcast includes Tara Bopp, Will Cespedes, Chris Clower, Kaitlin Cournelle, Patrick Curry, Mark Ostrander and Damone Williams.

In addition to the regular performance schedule, additional student matinees are available by arrangement.

Each performance will include a post-show talk lead by a historian on California’s role in the Civil War and featured actors from the show. The Gala Opening performances on March 7 and March 8 are followed by Champagne receptions.

“Battledrum” opens 7 p.m. Friday, March 7 and 7 p.m. Saturday, March 8 and performs Friday, Saturday and Sunday through April 19 with alternating casts. Additional weekday performances are also scheduled 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 12 and 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 8. Admission is $25, $22 seniors (65+), $15 youth (13-21) and $12 children under 12. Call 626-355-4318 or visit

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