Play shares stories of women dealing with World War II

Herald illustration/Tyrell Johnson

By Hayley Kappes

Killeen Daily Herald

The women of the "Greatest Generation" are personified in Vive Les Arts Theatre's production "First Baptist of Ivy Gap."

The play chronicles six women in the rural town of Ivy Gap, Tenn., who roll bandages for American troops during World War II at their local baptist church. Several are all too familiar with the hardships the war has brought upon their small community.

The women return for the 100th anniversary of the church 25 years later and catch up on their lives post World War II.

The play took director Eric Shephard back to his childhood. Shephard was raised in the small town of Hutto, just north of Austin, in the '70s where the biggest church in town was Baptist.

"The story reminded me of people I knew while growing up. We have a tendency to turn small town people into this homogenous group of patriotic, god fearing, Bible-toting people," Shephard said. "I was amazed at the variety of people there. It wasn't like living in Mayberry."

The characters of Ivy Gap have carved out a similar sense of themselves in terms of their surroundings.

"These women are conscious that they live in a little town in backwards Tennessee, and they're really OK with that. It's their place in the world," Shephard said. "But, there are other characters in the show who feel the urge to extend beyond that."

His grandfather and uncle fought overseas during World War II. Shephard said they had a difficult time talking about the heroics of it.

"I don't think they thought of themselves as this fantastic generation," he said. "They were aware they were fighting evil and there wasn't much choice. They did what they had to do."

April Hayes plays Olene, the only character in the production who doesn't feel the impact of having a loved one fight in a war.

"She's full of huge dreams to get out of this little town and make it as an actress on the big screen," Hayes said. "Olene enjoys the women around her."

Hayes' situation is the exact opposite of what her character portrays. Her husband, Tim, is serving in Iraq right now on his second deployment. He has been gone since June.

She said it's easy to react to other characters having a sad or scary moment about a loved one overseas.

"On our first rehearsal, some of the lines hit close to home, but now I've gotten used to it," Hayes said.

"It's Tim's second time over there, and I do worry about him. At the same time you learn to live through it."

Laurel Roller has acted in VLA productions for more than 20 years and taught theater at Copperas Cove High School. She plays Edith, the pastor's wife, who does her best to keep the peace among the other characters.

"For anybody who's lived anywhere in a small town in the South, they'll recognize these people," Roller said. "The great thing about the play is that these are complicated people who are deeper than their surface appearance. You can't stick them in a niche."

Themes and issues the characters confront hit close to home in a military community such as Killeen, Roller said.

"In both acts we have children and loved ones in war," she said. "My character has to comfort another woman whose son is fighting. All I have to do is think about my students who have family members fighting overseas now."

Contact Hayley Kappes at or (254) 501-7559.

If you go

"First Baptist of Ivy Gap" will be performed Oct. 24, 25, 31 and Nov. 1, at Vive Les Arts' Main Stage. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students. Contact 526-9090 or visit for more information.

Cast of "First Baptist of Ivy Gap"

Edith: Laurel Roller

Vera: Kelly Snyder

Luby: Gladys Dickison

Mae Ellen: Allison Shopbell

Olene: April Hayes

Sammy: Autumn McMurry

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