OFFBEAT: Civil War Chicago stage story includes VU grad

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-05-07T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Civil War Chicago stage story includes VU gradBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

There are still countless untold stories about the men and women who dedicated services and lives in the Civil War.

Emma Edmonds' story was told decades ago, including her own published book account. However, despite even that she was inducted into the Michigan Women Hall of Fame, her name is far from being familiar to most.

A well-told stage account of her life called "Comrades Mine" is having a world premiere in Chicago through May 19 at City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. in Chicago. The two-hour and 20 minute production written by Maureen Gallagher and directed by Anna C. Bahow stars Justine C. Turner in the role of Edmonds, who disguised herself as a man to enlist to serve in the Union Army.

She attributed her fondness for taking chances and adventure to a favorite book of her youth called "Fanny Campbell the Female Pirate." She followed the character's lead, but rather than dressing as a man to board a pirate ship, instead, she posed as a man and was accepted into the army.

Hailing from Flint, Mich., she took the name "Frank Thompson." Since extensive physical exams were not required, she was accepted and served as a male field nurse, and later, provided services as a spy, using disguises resulting in her being a woman, posing as a man, posing as a woman.

When a bout with malaria meant she would have to go to the hospital for a thorough examination, she left and was labeled "a deserter."

In 1864, Boston publisher DeWolfe, Fiske, & Co. published Edmonds' account of her military experiences as "The Female Spy of the Union Army." A year later, it was picked up by a Hartford, CT publisher and published as "Nurse and Spy in the Union Army," selling more than 175,000 copies.

She married and had three children. In 1886, she was granted a government pension of $12 a month for her military service, and after some campaigning, gained an honorable discharge.

Starring opposite Turner is actor Nate Santana, who received his BA in theater from Valparaiso University in 2006. He does a great turn playing one of the confused government clerks who helps investigate the letter sent by Edmonds requesting a pension fund for military service.

Tickets for "Comrades Mine" are $28.50, with discounts for seniors, students and military. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays or 3 p.m. Sundays. FYI: (773) 293-3682 or

Going to church

Local photographer Mike Lewandowski of Highland, who is also a Boilermaker Local 1 member in Chicago, has an upcoming show. His Facebook page is Lew Shots Photography and he also has Highland wildlife photos in a storefront window at 2939 Jewett in Highland. As for the new show, it captures St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Hammond through his lens. Called "St. Joe's Through My Eyes," it's at Blue Room Cafe, 5246 Hohman Ave. in Hammond starting May 17. FYI: (219) 933-8124

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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