Glory and gratitude



Site Director Lisa Franklin invites everyone to enjoy the exhibit.
Photo: Fred Marshall


Without a doubt there are very few people alive today in the U.S. who remember the concerted effort to save the lives of Belgian civilians during the brutal German occupation of that country in World War One.  It is likely, however, that many native Belgians today remember those relief efforts of long ago through stories handed-down from their parents and grand parents.  We know that the Belgian people of that day, especially the children, very greatly appreciated the efforts of the United States and its people.  And we know this to be fact because of the many hand-written letters of that time that found their way to the U.S.

     This relief effort to save the starving people of Belgium had its genesis with future U.S. President Herbert Hoover in 1914.  Lisa Franklin of the Alabama Historical Commission and current Site Director at the State Capitol says that the situation in Belgium quickly went down hill after the German invasion in August, 1914.  At that time, Belgium relied heavily on imports of food to sustain its population of several million people.  Because of the war, these imports of food slowed to a trickle, as the British tightened their naval blockade of Belgian ports.

     On the other side, the Germans couldn’t have cared less about the starving people of Belgium.  Their objective was to feed their own army.  At the same time, the British feared, and rightly so, that if they loosened the naval blockade to allow some food through, the Germans would simply capture if for their own use.  Something had to give, and soon, or many thousands of Belgian civilians were destined to starve to death.  Pleas went out from around the globe for the British to relax their blockade stranglehold for humanitarian reasons, and that’s when Herbert Hoover became involved.

     Finally, after weeks of negotiations, Hoover was able to establish the Commission for Relief in Belgium.  The British agreed to let food pass through its naval blockade, and the Germans agreed to let the food be distributed, unmolested, to the starving Belgian people.  The Commission would go on to feed more than nine million people a day in Belgium!  It wasn’t long before the people of Belgium began to express their sincere appreciation in letters, especially letters from children.  Letters poured-in addressed to Mr. Hoover and to Alexander Heingartner, U.S. Consul General in Liege, Belgium.  These letters are known today as the “Glory and Gratitude to the United States” letters.

     It is reproductions of some of these letters that make up the current exhibit in the Old Supreme Court Library in the Capitol.  Lisa Franklin says the exhibit will run through April 30th.  The letters are written in French or Dutch and translated into English.  One of my favorite letters reads in part:  “We thank you with all our heart.  We have put you and your families in our prayers.  In your honor, we celebrated today the birthday of your dear country, and we sang your beautiful National Anthem.”  It is signed:  “4th grade pupils from St. Victor’s School, Rue- Hors- Chateau, 61, Liege, 1917.”  You need to stop and see it for yourself.


“Twelfth Night,” a comedy by William Shakespeare, opens April 20 In repertory April 27 – May 6



Marina Shay, Ginneh Thomas, Charles Pasternak of the cast of Twelfth Night. Contributed

  “If music be the food of love, play on.” The Alabama Shakespeare Festival presents William Shakespeare’s beloved comedy Twelfth Night April 20 through May 5. The production is directed by ASF Associate Artist Greta Lambert and sponsored by the Ben May Charitable Trust.

     Tickets start at $31 and are available online at, by phone at 800-841-4273, or through the ASF box office located at One Festival Drive in the heart of Montgomery’s beautiful Blount Cultural Park. Student tickets are available for $25.

     In the play, shipwrecked twins Viola and Sebastian become separated, yet both wash ashore on the coast of Illyria. Unaware of the other’s existence in the same strange land, their trials and tribulations with love ultimately reunite the siblings. Mistaken identities and love triangles abound in this rambunctious romp, which is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies.

“William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is my favorite comedy of the Bard’s,” says Artistic Director Rick Dildine. “Greta Lambert, who is both an accomplished actress and director, has created a beautiful world on stage with music, comedy, and empathy. It is a gorgeous and fun production you won’t want to miss.”

     Twelfth Night features Marina Shay as Viola, who disguises herself as the page Cesario. Shay is currently garnering critical acclaim for her portrayal of Annie Sullivan in ASF’s The Miracle Worker and was recently lauded for her work in Virginia Rep’s Pride and Prejudice and Shakespeare in Love at the Cleveland Play House.

     Ginneh Thomas portrays Olivia, a noblewoman who conceives a passion for the youth Cesario. Thomas, who also appears in ASF’s The Miracle Worker in the role of Viney, is a Chicago-based actress whose credits include productions with Steppenwolf Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, and Broadway Playhouse Theatre. Thomas has appeared previously at ASF in the Southern Writers’ Festival of New Plays.

Orsino, a duke in love with Olivia, is played by Charles Pasternak. Making his ASF debut, Pasternak’s credits include productions with Indiana Rep, Clarence Brown, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz.

     Viola’s twin brother Sebastian is played by Sean Hudock, who also plays James Keller in The Miracle Worker. Theatre credits include Cleveland Play House, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and LA Theatre Works. Film work includes Private Romeo and the upcoming The Chaperone on Masterpiece.

Louis Butelli, last seen in the Folger Theatre’s The Gravedigger’s Tale at ASF, appears as Feste, a fool attached to Lady Olivia’s household. Butelli’s extensive theatre credits include New Victory (NYC), Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Yale Rep, Hartford Stage, and La Jolla Playhouse. He also appears at ASF this season as Anagnos in The Miracle Worker.

Others in the cast include Jay Russell as Malvolio, Timonty Carter as Sir Toby, Rodney Clark as Antonio, Tony DiBuono as Maria, and Billy Finn as Sir Andrew. Josh Cahn, Ithamar Fracois, Brian Ott, Woodrow Proctor, Collin Purcell, Katie Fanning, Lara Treacy, and Colin Wulff perform a number of supporting roles.

     Twelfth Night is directed by Greta Lambert, who is well known to ASF audiences as both an actress and director. Lambert also directs this season’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. She has previously directed many Shakespeare productions at ASF, including The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Comedy of Errors. As a Shakespearean actress, she has performed as Gertrude, Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, Viola, Mistress Page, Beatrice, Constance, Rosalind, Emilia, Cressida, Kate, Titania, Miranda, Duchess of York, Princess Katherine, Queen Katherine of Spain, and Lady Ann.

     The creative team for Twelfth Night includes James Wolk (set design), Pamela Schofield (costume design), Kendall Smith (lighting design), William Burns (sound design), and Dr. Susan Willis (dramaturg). The production stage manager is Victoria Broyles, and Wyatt Silman is the production assistant.

     Twelfth Night plays in repertory with The Miracle Worker and Much Ado About Nothing April 27th through May 6, so tourists can visit the theatre and see 3 shows in one weekend. On Saturday, May 5, audience members have the opportunity to enjoy a narrated changeover at 4:30 p.m., which is free and open to the public. During the transition, ASF’s stage crew will change the set from The Miracle Worker to Twelfth Night on the Festival Stage while the technical director narrates the process.


Montgomery Career Center hosting employer Brunch & Learn

The Montgomery Career Center is hosting a Brunch & Learn event for area employers to learn all about the On-the-Job Training (OJT) program on Tuesday, April 24 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. The Career Center is located at 1060 East South Boulevard in Montgomery. The event is free and open to all employers in the area.

ON-THE-JOB TRAINING: You hire! You Train! We Reimburse!Brunch & Learn
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

The OJT program is designed to help employers hire permanent, entry-level, full-time employees by providing wage reimbursement at a minimum of 50% of the participant’s wage to compensate for training and supervision costs.

Registration is required and the deadline is April 20. To register, call 334.286.1746 or email