This weekend, the Stage Company will present the final installment of “The Ware Trilogy,” an acclaimed saga set in the tiny town of Ware, Illinois.
Spanning three decades, the trilogy follows a deaf character named Tuc (played by Sam Butler) and other Ware townspeople as they navigate pivotal periods in American history.
The trilogy’s third installment, “The Edge of Peace,” takes place in the final days of World War II after a young soldier from town is declared missing in action.
The Stage Company produced the trilogy’s first installment, “Mother Hicks,” in 2014; and the second installment, “The Edge of Sunrise,” in 2016. Wrapping up the series is both “an exciting kind of closure” and bittersweet, said director Kevin Purcell.
“Some of the cast that has been with us throughout has become good friends, and we’ve all enjoyed the journey together, and in fact, a couple of the actors have actually said, ‘I don’t even want to think about Sunday, the last performance,’” Purcell said.
Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Varsity Center. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students and can be purchased at www.stagecompany.org or from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before performances at the Varsity Center box office, 418 S. Illinois Ave., Carbondale.
The play will be presented in both English and American Sign Language (ASL). Butler, who is a deaf actor, communicates exclusively in ASL, and two ASL interpreters will be signing for the audience throughout the performances.
Playwright Suzan Zeder traveled to Ware, located near Jonesboro in Union County, in the 1980s to collect stories from residents for her plays.
“Everybody that loves theater knows about the famous playwrights in mainstream theater, you know, the Tennesee Williams, Arthur Miller — many of them men, of course — Eugene O’Neill, all the 20th century male playwrights, and … the general theater audience doesn’t know as much about people who write plays for children and family theater. But for my money, in the last 50 years, there are very few playwrights that have had as big an impact on theater for children and families as Suzan Zeder has,” Purcell said.
The production coincides with the publication of a new edition of the full “Ware Trilogy” by Dramatic Publishing. Zeder will be in attendance at Friday’s performance and will sign books after the Saturday night show.
In addition, Zeder will host a playwriting workshop at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Varsity Center. Tickets for the workshop are $20.
“I love her stories, the way she creates, really, parables to indirectly communicate a message. Of course, the message in the Ware trilogy is how life in small towns can reflect the world and how no matter where you go, there you are,” Purcell said.
“The Edge of Peace” is the most historically accurate installment in the trilogy and draws on real stories Zeder gathered from Ware residents, Purcell said.
“There was a German prisoner of war camp in Pomona. It was a CCC camp that was built in the 1930s, but for six months during 1945 it was a German POW camp, and that camp is part of the plot in the play. And … people who grew up in Southern Illinois, they didn’t even know about that. And so Suzan did very detailed research about the area and it helps us understand ourselves and our history and our past here,” Purcell said.