Preview: With ‘All Is Calm,’ CenterStage Clovis brings a temporary respite to a warring world

Darren Tharp, artistic director of CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre, feels strongly about his company’s new production of “All Is Calm.” I knew this the moment he started talking to me about the production nearly 11 months ago. You can often sense when someone is truly passionate about a theater project, and Tharp’s enthusiasm spilled out as he eagerly explained his love for this heartwarming piece of theater.

Pictured above: The cast of ‘All Is Calm.’ Photo: CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre

Now opening weekend is here. CenterStage opted to remain dark on Veterans Day and open the show on Saturday, Nov. 12, with matinee and evening performances, at a most suitable location: the Clovis Veterans Memorial District Auditorium. “All Is Calm” continues for just four more performances through Nov. 19.

In an interview, Tharp offered some insights about the show.

Q: Talk a little about the storyline. I know it’s based on true events. From your research, is it pretty close to what really happened?

A: Not only is it based on true events, the actual dialogue that is read are first-person accounts of the experience of the Christmas Truce of 1914. These powerful words intermixed with beautiful acapella singing leads to a powerful telling of this true and inspiring story of hope and friendship during war time.


Q: There’s a lot of music. Are the songs and lyrics original, or are they period songs?

A: All the music is from World War I and was originally sung during that era. This show is entirely sung a cappella, in three different languages and at times with different keys in different rhythms. Music was what started the truce. One song “Stille Nacht,” caused peace, silence, and harmony all at the same time.

Q: For me, it’s hard to watch movies or read about World War I because of the close confines of the trenches. It sounds hellish. What have you learned about the war that will stick with you in terms of what the soldiers faced?

A: World War I, or the Great War, was thought to be the war that would end all wars — its impact and scale was something that the world had never seen before. Through the stories of these young men we have learned so much about their experience, their lives, and what they hoped for going into the war, during the war, and as the Truce ended. Disease and fear were definitely a part of the trenches. Although trenches were built using wooden plank “duckboards” and sandbags, it was common to live in the mud and develop a condition known as “trenchfoot.”

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Q: Does anyone in the cast have a connection to the men who fought in the war?

A: Daniel Sutherland’s great grandfather fought in the trenches for the British Army.

Q: What was your biggest challenge in staging the show?

A: One of the unique challenges of this show is that the actors are on stage for the entire production. It was a design challenge to ensure that we could create the different sides of the war by maneuvering the men, using crates, and adding in special effects. The simplicity of the set and costumes juxtaposed with the complexity of the music and the different languages spoken beautifully tells the story of these young men and their challenges in the trenches and peace during Christmas of 1914.

Q: Why do you find this show so inspirational? What larger meaning about conflict can people draw from it?

A: “All is Calm” is a great reminder that at the end of it all, we are all humans seeking peace and understanding. Regardless of the background we come from, the challenges that we face, it is important to treat each other with respect and dignity. The fact that these two sides of the war were able to come together to celebrate Christmas, in the midst of a war, shows that at the heart of it all, mankind is good.

Q: Anything else you want to share?

A: World War I had a huge impact on the arts as a whole — poets, visual artists, musicians — wrestled with Modernism, a shift to be more realistic. What better way to honor and pay tribute to those who served and sacrificed during World War I than to use musical theater as a medium and use their own words and songs that were sung in the trenches to tell a story of hope. In all accounts hope should have been the last thing on these young men’s minds.


Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (2)

  • lisa bartels

    I just saw the first performance of All is Calm and would highly recommend it. It is very intense but not really appropriate for young children. It is fairly short running about 75 minutes but worth every minute.

  • Lana Roberts

    As the house lights came up after the opening performance, I was unwilling to move, much less to speak. All is Calm is stunning, deeply poignant, and expertly rendered.


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