WWII Comes to the Cast of South Pacific

Lieutenant Colonel Franklin B. Montgomery had the glint in his 94-year-old eyes of his much younger self. Frank was in fact channeling his 18-year-old self, describing how his life and the lives of all Americans changed after Pearl Harbor.


“It exploded my family,” said Frank. “High Point, my hometown. North Carolina. Our nation. The world.”

Frank was standing in front of a packed room, speaking to a rapt audience – the 30 cast members and assorted creative team and staff of our production of SOUTH PACIFIC. Frank was invited to speak to them because he’s a bit of an expert in this area. He served in the South Pacific during WWII.

But that’s telling the story in the wrong order. Frank graduated from High Point High School in 1944 and enrolled in NC State with the intention of studying engineering and continuing to run track. He’d been a track star in high school. He had a promising future. And then war reared its ugly head, and like so many young Americans Frank pivoted to meet it.

In early 1942 Frank dropped out of college and volunteered for the Army Air Corps.

“I choose the Air Corps because it seemed exciting,” Frank said. “Just 20 years before I was born the Wright Brothers flew the first plane off the coast of North Carolina.” He described himself as “not militaristic, most of us weren’t”, but rather driven by a sense of duty and the thrill of new experiences.

He got on a bus in High Point with seven other people, but they all went their separate ways. [Check out this News & Record article for more of Frank’s history and to hear how he met up with one of those same young men he left with, so many years later.]

Frank graduated flight school in 1944 and shipped out. Eighty percent of the personnel and equipment in WWII went to Europe, but Frank went to the South Pacific. Not his choice.


“I knew how to fly an airplane, but that’s about all I knew,” said Frank of his younger self. Prior to leaving for the war, the furthest he’d been from home was Myrtle Beach. He wound up on Oahu flying a P51. He’d sometimes be in the air for 7 hours a stretch with only the most rudimentary navigation instruments. The enemy was not the only threat.

“Watching that fuel gauge go own and down, you begin to wonder if you’ll make it back.”

He described the state of endless waiting that the characters of SOUTH PACIFIC are engaged in – waiting for orders, for battle, for news from home. Frank spent more than an hour sharing his candid memories and answering questions from the cast – large and small.

“How long would it take to get an answer when you wrote letters?” asked one cast member.

“Forever,” said Frank. “Weeks. Or never.”

Frank returned home in early 1946. He later went back to Southeast Asia to serve in Korea and Vietnam. He spent time living in Okinawa with his wife and sons. His experiences living and fighting in the South Pacific didn’t leave him bitter towards the people there.

“No Japanese person ever hit me or short changed me. I’d shoot down their planes and boats but I couldn’t sit there and say I hated them. But a friend of mine just hated them from his guts. Explain that.”

It’s hard to fathom Frank hating anyone. He’s just about the most congenial person you can imagine. But that difference of feeling is at the heart of South Pacific, and our production is better because Lieutenant Colonel Franklin B. Montgomery shared his experiences with our cast during the rehearsal process and helped bring the characters to life by filling out the world they inhabit.



*If you happened to notice Frank wearing three hats, you are not mistaken. Frank likes his hats.

We are proud to be honoring Lieutenant Colonel Franklin B. Montgomery as part of Triad Salutes at the Opening Night performance of South Pacific on Friday, September 22. 

Reflections on the NCTC Producing Gathering

As my time at the NCTC Producing Gathering comes to an end, I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this conference. With session topics ranging from marketing strategies, to assessing the realities of diversity and inclusion in theater arts, there was no shortage of great ideas. As an undergraduate student, I came to the NCTC Producing Gathering with the expectation that I would learn more about the theater profession, and the type of work it takes to make art a reality. But more than that, over the past two days I have also learned a great deal about myself as a young professional, and what action steps I can be taking now both within the arts world and beyond.







One of the highlights of Ben Cameron’s opening address was his remark that an organization’s core values are more important than the mission statement. This idea inspired the discussion of the first session that I attended, “Prioritizing Values Over Mission”. The major takeaway for me during this conversation was that while the mission statement might define what you do, it should not be the single guiding force of an organization’s work. In truth, it is the core values that spark people’s passion and motivation towards the work that needs to be done. Core values show who you are, why you care, and determine what needs to be done. For me, this concept is true for both my professional and personal life. It’s not just what you do; it’s how, and why.



Moving into the second day of the Producing Gathering, there was a lot of focus on community. In a morning session, “Assessing Where We Are Now: Diversity & Inclusion”, participants shared personal stories from past successes and shortcomings of bridging various sociocultural divides in our communities. While ultimately there were many ideas on how to attract audiences, diversify casting, and create accessible productions, it was realized that the first and arguably most important step we all need to be making towards these professional goals is in our personal lives. It is impossible to authentically and effectively meet articulated goals of inclusivity unless we make the effort to personally build relationships and engage in communities beyond those that we comfortably interact with in our everyday lives. This session really inspired me to break out of my daily routines, and actively seek activities that allow me to build relationships across cultural boundaries.







Overall, my experience at the NCTC Producing Gathering was incredibly worthwhile. I made connections with theater and arts professionals from all over the state, learned more about my field, and gained valuable insights on my role as a young professional in the arts. Many thanks to Triad Stage and the NCTC staff for making this opportunity possible!


– Alyx Bean, Triad Stage Summer 2017 Opportunity Greensboro Fellow


NCTC Producing Gathering: Day 2

The second and final day of the North Carolina Theatre Conference Producing Gathering at Triad Stage has ended, but the buzzy excitement of new ideas and new relationships is going to be buoying the work theater companies across the state in the weeks to come.

We jumped straight into workshop sessions, with early sessions on marketing, building great staffs, and weathering change. Participants in conference block two tackled board engagement, diversity and inclusion check-in, and bridging the urban/rural divide.


Trickling into The Pyrle Theater this morning.

Digging deep to solve the problems of our time. #nbd

Digging deep to solve the problems of our time. #nbd

NCTC arranged a second excursion to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, and an excursion to Elsewhere, a living museum and artist residency housed in a former thrift shop on Elm St. As always a huge shout out to ICRCM, frequent collaborators and longtime partners, for hosting us. The Elsewhere tour was a first for many, including members of the Triad Stage staff, and was an inspiring experience for those who attended.

Thanks Guido for leading such an excellent tour!

Thanks Guido for leading such an excellent tour!

Triad Stage Associate Artistic Director Sarah Hankins on her first Elsewhere tour.

Triad Stage Associate Artistic Director Sarah Hankins on her first Elsewhere tour.

Look at all those inspired smiles!

Look at all those inspired smiles!

And what is a good conference without closing remarks that lay out where the group has been and where we’re all headed in the next year? Vivienne Benesch, the new(ish) Producing Artistic Director of Playmakers Repertory Company, gracefully rose to the occasion.

A self-avowed quoter, Vivienne had some of her own beautiful reflections and pearls of wisdom to share. Growing up in London and New York, Vivienne had this to say about her first year and a half in NC: “I have never encountered the kind of pride North Carolinians have for their home and what is possible here.”

At a conference where authenticity was a recurring theme in sessions, Vivienne reminded us all that these conversations “are better when you’re not talking to yourself.” In dialogue with each other, and with our communities, we endeavor to celebrate our successes and improve on our shortcomings in the year ahead.

We’re still processing some of the big questions and ideas from the conference, but as part of that process, we’re going to be putting together some of the best and most inspiring nuggets uncovered during those conversations with all of you later on this week. Stay tuned!

One of the best least-noticed pieces of art at Elsewhere - inspiring words for artists of all kinds, visible from Freeman Mill Rd.

One of the best least-noticed pieces of art at Elsewhere – inspiring words for artists of all kinds, visible from Freeman Mill Rd.

Photos and content from Opportunity Greensboro Fellow Alyx Bean and Marketing Manager Tiffany Albright. 

NCTC Producing Gathering: Day 1

Triad Stage and the North Carolina Theatre Conference are pretty tight – which maybe isn’t surprising, considering NCTC’s state headquarters are embedded in our administrative offices on Elm St. in downtown Greensboro. But we are thrilled every time we get to welcome the entire NC theater community to Greensboro for the annual NCTC Producing Gathering. This year’s two-day conference (July 17 & 18, 2017) is our fifth time hosting the gathering of almost 100 theater practitioners, from companies of all sizes to board members, independent producers, educators, and volunteers from all over the state.

Coffee before deep thought, please.

Coffee before deep thought, please.

This year we kicked off in The Pyrle Theater with an opening keynote from Ben Cameron, a titan thought leader in the arts world and a native of the Triad. He shared ten meditations on theater in NC and the way forward. His “Zen Ben” presentation seemed to key up the audience more than calm the fears, which is exactly what you want at the start of your conference. Big takeaways: Change is already here, and theaters that can’t adapt are in trouble. Also, we could all stand to take a hard look at our values and how we’re reflecting them in our work and our wider actions in the community (more on that late this week in our reflection post).

Photo courtesy of NCTC. From left to right: Triad Stage Founding Artistic Director Preston Lane, Triad Stage Board Chair Dabney Sanders, Keynote Speaker Ben Cameron, and Dennis Quaintance (President, Quaintance Weaver).

Photo courtesy of NCTC. From left to right: Triad Stage Founding Artistic Director Preston Lane, Triad Stage Board Chair Dabney Sanders, Keynote Speaker Ben Cameron, and Dennis Quaintance (President, Quaintance Weaver).

After the keynote, NCTC Executive Director Angie Hays spent some time leading us through the process of generating unconference topics (for those who have never attended an unconference, it’s basically a giant brainstorming session where we share all the problems we’d like to solve and things we’d like to talk about, and then whittle that down to our sessions). Today’s sessions spanned a range of topics that included Creativity & Collaboration, Allowing Our Communities to Define Our Values, Sensory Friendly Performances, and Engaging Millenial Donors.




The afternoon carried us out into the communities for tours of The Forge, Greensboro’s burgeoning makerspace, and The International Civil Rights Center and Museum, a cultural touchstone for our city and state.


The Forge tour with Executive Director Joe Rotondi.

Day one is wrapping up with an extremely chic party at Proximity Hotel, which will still wind down early enough for us all to be back fresh-faced in the morning for what is guaranteed to be another challenging and rewarding day.

Tomorrow we’ll share the best news from Day 2, and later in the week we’ll also share some of our top line takeaways from our favorite sessions, and favorite general moments from the conference. Until tomorrow!

Photos and content from Opportunity Greensboro Fellow Alyx Bean and Marketing Manager Tiffany Albright.