A Chapel Hill Playwright's Social Commentary On World War I

Nov 19, 2014

A scene from World War I at the North Carolina Veterans Memorial
Credit Universal Pops / Flickr Creative Commons


At the peak of the Great Depression in the 1930s, legendary Chapel Hill playwright Paul Green collaborated with composer Kurt Weill to create a socially conscious musical about World War I.

In fact, Johnny Johnson was a blend of comedy, tragedy and satire. The musical pits a pacifist American against The War to End All Wars.

The title character is thrust into it after his girlfriend threatens to leave him for lack of patriotism, but Johnny finds his lighthearted and joking nature does not mesh with the horrors of war. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with Serena Ebhardt, director of Johnny Johnson; Tim Carter, music professor at UNC-Chapel Hill; and actors Andrew Plotnikov and Kyle Strickenberger. The Kenan Theatre Company opens the production Thursday at 8 p.m. and it runs through Monday.

It’s part of a larger conversation on campus to mark 100 years since World War I.