War Secrets

Renaissance Theaterworks will perform Phylis Ravel’s “Censored on Final Approach” for the first time since the beloved chair of Marquette University’s theater program died in 2012.

Phylis Ravel’s Censored on Final Approach is a memory play: In 1955, Catherine and Gerry recall their experience in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program during World War II.

Censored_RenassianceBut this month’s production at Renaissance Theaterworks (April 1-24) holds different sorts of memories for those involved – it’s the first time Ravel’s play has been performed in Milwaukee since her death in 2012.

Ravel was a beloved and respected chair of Marquette University’s theater program, so it’s appropriate that Censored is being produced in partnership with Marquette. Faculty members will work as designers, and the cast consists of professional and student actors. Ravel directed the play herself at Marquette in 2009, but Leda Hoffmann, director of the Renaissance production, has no problem revisiting it.

“It’s one of those stories that is just yelling to be told,” she says. The play describes the resistance faced by more than 1,800 women who were part of the WASP program from 1943 to 1945, which included life-threatening sabotage of aircraft and equipment.

“These things seem unbelievable,” says Hoffmann, “yet there are all these diaries and first-hand accounts.”

Beyond the history, though, Hoffmann says the play deals with other important questions, such as the nature of memory and the decision to keep secrets.

“There’s also that battle: Do you or do you not want to talk about your past? Do you just let it go? That feels like one of the universal struggles of the play.”

‘War Secrets’ appears in the April 2016 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the April issue on newsstands beginning March 28.

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Paul Kosidowski is a freelance writer and critic who contributes regularly to Milwaukee Magazine, WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio and national arts magazines. He writes weekly reviews and previews for the Culture Club column. He was literary director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater from 1999-2006. In 2007, he was a fellow with the NEA Theater and Musical Theater Criticism Institute at the University of Southern California. His writing has also appeared in American Theatre magazine, Backstage, The Boston Globe, Theatre Topics, and Isthmus (Madison, Wis.). He has taught theater history, arts criticism and magazine writing at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.