The show, which is free to the public, is sponsored by Courage Beyond, a division of Centerstone which serves veterans with PTSD and other unseen wounds of war.
Wife and husband team Carol Ponder and Robert Kiefer, longtime Nashville theater favorites, perform this two-person reader’s theater play with music.
The performance is drawn from Lt. Herschel D. Ponder’s World War II memoir as a fighter pilot flying P-47 Thunderbolts in Europe. Herschel was Carol’s father. Enriched with songs from the era and from her family’s Western North Carolina mountain home, it is a beautiful production that evokes the essence of war and warriors; their victories, sacrifices, loyalty to each other; and the sweet pain of coming home. Audience response from combat veterans as well as people from all other walks of life has been tremendous.
Lt. Herschel Ponder wrote in his storytelling voice — droll, sincere, and sometimes cruelly straightforward. In his memoir, he wrote of his fears, his joys, and his struggle to remain human during and after an inhumane war.
The discussions after the performance — an integral part of this theatrical encounter — are always rich with shared experiences. After World War II, Ponder lived with varying degrees of post-traumatic stress disorder and other physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges; however, he found joy and satisfaction in creating a rich and interesting life for himself and with his family. In 1989, after 45 years, he finally found real relief in writing his memoir.
Hearing his words of war and peace, surrounded by narrative and song, is a powerful stimulus that inspires others to think and open up about their own experiences — whether they are survivors of combat or family and friends who are living through PTSD and other after-effects of war with their veterans.
Supported by members of the military, psychologists, and a growing audience of new friends and fans, Carol and Robert are performing Ponder Anew for combat soldiers and their friends and families, as a catalyst for healing and reintegration.
They also are reaching out to audiences of all kinds, helping us in this country to understand what it is that we ask of our men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.
The performance is also a way to profoundly thank those men and women for their service.