The Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, Massachusetts is an interesting place, with or without a performance on its stage. Once an ornate opera house, it’s been remodeled and expanded to include an old auto dealership as lobby. The theater sits maybe 100 yards off the town common in a town that's struggling to hold onto its historic roots while it finds a way to fit into the 21st century. You may have seen the Colonial in a PBS program featuring a recent performance by singer James Taylor.
In New England (and throughout the South, as well) most towns -- large or small – have a square, or common, containing a Civil War memorial that lists the names of those who fought and never came home. Since things don’t change very quickly around here, descendants of those dead often remain in the region. Commons are the focal points of towns, so those monuments get a certain amount of attention.
Back inside the theater, I learned more about Elvis than I ever wanted to know, and enjoyed almost every minute. While we relived the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s through song and dance, both singers/actors stressed Elvis’ strong religious faith and his commitment to his country. He was a true patriot, they said.
At the end of the show, they returned to that thought. A drumbeat rumbled from the rear of the stage, the organ swelled and photos of fireworks flashed on the screen behind the band. Here comes the finale, I thought, assuming we were about to hear “The Star Spangled Banner“or “God Bless America.” Instead, we were all invited to stand up and sing “Dixie.”
After the show, the cast came out to the lobby for photos and handshakes. I went up to the music director, told him how much I enjoyed the evening but mentioned that I thought “Dixie” was a poor song choice, especially in an area that supplied much of the cannon fodder for the Civil War. I suggested he take a look at the monument down the block. He didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.
So, this week we’ve got Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) declaring April as Confederate History Month in Virginia, in hopes that designation will bring much-needed tourist dollars to the state while it helps Virginians "understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War."
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