America's Oldest · Founded 1808

Watch the true stories of a divided America come to life during Independence Studio on 3’s exciting season finale : CIVIL WAR VOICES

April 23, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA: Walnut Street Theatre’s 2018-19 Independence Studio on 3 season concludes with the captivating narratives and beautiful musical arrangements of CIVIL WAR VOICES. Written by James R. Harris and directed by Bill Van Horn, the production begins previews on April 23, opens April 25, and continues through May 26.

“This is our true story and these are our words.” With this line, a cast of actor/musicians immerse us in the compelling, passionate, and true stories of real people from both sides of our country’s most divisive conflict. In their own words taken straight from the writings they left behind, this insightful and stirring play with music brings to life a deeply human celebration of what makes us American.

As the Civil War took the nation by storm, Alabama plantation owner Joseph Harris watched the political landscape of the United States make a dramatic shift. He took to his journal to document what he felt and saw as the country was engulfed in war. Several years later Joseph’s great-great-nephew, James R. Harris, discovered the existence of this very same diary and felt inspired to share the remarkable first-hand accounts of Joseph and four other individuals. Although a lawyer by trade, Harris tapped into his great passion for musical theatre and years of experience as a performer to create the production. Set to original arrangements of the unique music of the period by award-winning composer Mark Hayes, CIVIL WAR VOICES came to fruition.

“It occurred to me that other people and other Americans probably kept journals and letters," said Harris in an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star. “The idea struck me that this could be a musical, a potentially moving musical."

Bill Van Horn returns to the Walnut Street Theatre to direct CIVIL WAR VOICES. At the Walnut, he directed A Christmas Carol, Peter and the Starcatcher, Around the World in 80 Days, The Glass Menagerie and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the Walnut Street Theatre’s current Mainstage production. He has also appeared on stage in numerous other Walnut productions, including: Annie, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Wizard of Oz, A Christmas Story, Mary Poppins, Elf, and Fiddler on the Roof.

In addition to the six lead characters at the heart of CIVIL WAR VOICES, the multi-talented cast of Walnut Street Theatre veterans form an ensemble tasked with portraying more than 20 diverse characters. Ben Shepard (Holiday Inn) assumes the role of Joseph Harris, a cotton planter and James Harris’ granduncle. Matthew Mastronardi (Peter and the Starcatcher) and Laura Giknis (Matilda) play Theo and Harriet Perry, a young married couple separated by the war. Former slave and close friend of Mary Todd Lincoln, Elizabeth Keckley, will be portrayed by Jessica Johnson (Oleanna), and college professor turned Union soldier, Joshua Chamberlain, will be played by Damon Bonetti (It’s A Wonderful Life). Nichalas L. Parker (The Wizard of Oz) completes the cast as the Narrator, serving as the audience’s guide throughout the production.

From an Alabama plantation to the brutal battlefield at Gettysburg, scenic designer Andrew Thompson’s transformative set allows the show to transition between more than 20 locations through the use of unique props and clever stage direction. Serving 13 seasons as technical director for the Walnut Street Theatre’s Studio on 3, Thompson has constructed a rustic attic complete with the somber greys and blues of the war, dilapidated wooden overhead beams and worn sofas that double as seating for front row audience members to create a sense of total immersion.

Costume Designer and Assistant Costume Shop Manager Rebecca Dwight joins Thompson on the production team. Dwight’s previous work at the Walnut includes Oleanna and It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Lighting Designer J. Dominic Chacon (Peter and the Star Catcher, Red) and Sound Designer John Kolbinski (The Winter Wonderettes, Baskerville, Souvenir) round out the company.

The 2018-19 sponsor for the Independence Studio on 3 season is the Independence Foundation. Media season sponsors are Philly Weekly and WRTI Radio. Tickets are $40 and are now available at 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available at or