When Irwin Shaw wrote his first play in 1936, he was just 23 — the age of the soldiers he described in his expressionist drama, Bury the Dead, about a group of soldiers killed in battle who refuse to be buried. Shaw was just a little bit older than the drama students from UC’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) who will perform the play over three weeks at The Carnegie Center in Covington.
This unusual collaboration is the product of Joshua Steele, who manages the theater at The Carnegie, and Michael Burnham, CCM professor of drama and a member of the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards Hall of Fame.
Burnham put his cast of three dozen performers, CCM students and a handful of professional actors through a kind of boot camp to prepare them for this production — including military drills and conversations with current and former soldiers and officers, a discussion of the historical context for World War I and psychoanalysis of the motivations of playwright Shaw and the characters he created.
This “environmental” preparation should result in a gripping performance of this show in which six slain soldiers arise from their graves, drawing international attention and bringing the engine of war to a halt. The play reveals the stories of their lives and relationships in a way that makes the subject of war deeply personal. There will be an open talkback with the cast and some military experts after each performance.