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JRT pays tribute to soldiers

Now in its 11th year, Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s “1940s USO Show” still has soldiers saluting and audience members tapping.
It is, after all, the whole purpose behind the production, according to Jennifer Schmidt, JRT’s artistic director.
“It all started when Kathleen Buttolph (a former JRT director) came to me and asked me if I would be interested in doing something patriotic for Jonesborough Days,” recalled Schmidt, who remains the show’s writer and director. “It kind of grew from there. The format remains the same, but the show is different every year.”
The USO Show, which runs through Sunday, July 13, is designed as a tribute to America’s service men and women, taking audiences back in time to WJRT radio station in the 1940s. It features music, dance and a liberal dose of humor sprinkled throughout.
Songs, according to Schmidt, are all indicative of the era.
“It was a special time,” she said. “Everyone supported the country. Everyone banded together. It was written in the music.”
While the military medley — the song that is specifically dedicated to veterans — remains the same every year, Schmidt acknowledges that she starts from scratch with the rest.
At first, she worried that — as the show continued in popularity — her choices would become limited. But, she said, she found just the opposite to be true.
“I learn something every time I research,” Schmidt said. “There is so much wonderful material.”
And the material continues to draw in the crowds each year.
“We’ve almost sold out for this weekend,” she said prior to the show’s June 26 launch. “I think basically in an audience, everyone wants to see a show and come away uplifted. This show does that on so many levels.”
It is also a wonderful opportunity to honor America’s veterans.
“We are so blessed,” Schmidt said. “We’re thankful for the men and women that made our lives what it is today.”
Woody Johnson, an Air Force veteran as well as a frequent audience member, agrees. “It’s an appreciation for the heritage of our country,” Johnson said.
It’s also a fitting tribute, he believes, for soldiers past and present.
“We do have a lot of soldiers still serving. We need to remember this,” he said.
Tickets for the “1940s USO Show” are $15 for general admission and $13 for seniors and students, and are available by calling the HIstoric Jonesborough Visitors Center at 753-1010 or visiting www.jonesboroughtheatre.com.
Performances will be held Thursday through Sunday, July 3-6, and Fridaythrough Sunday, July 11-13, with evening and matinee performances.