Arts and Entertainment

Two Whidbey gents forge friendship through stories

Tom Churchill and Don Wilkins will tell many of the stories of their youth and the friendship that sprung from their American and British experiences during World War II at the Whidbey Children
Tom Churchill and Don Wilkins will tell many of the stories of their youth and the friendship that sprung from their American and British experiences during World War II at the Whidbey Children's Theater Sept. 17 and 18.
— image credit: Samantha O’Brochta/ The Record

The Brits and the Yanks may be 3,000 miles away from each other, but one thing they share is a commonality of feelings brought about by living through World War II.

A local Englishman and an American are working together to give the public an insider’s view into what the world was like back then, on both sides of the pond.

Tom Churchill, the American, and Don Wilkins, the Brit, will present stories of their youth and beyond in two evenings on Friday, Sept. 17 and Saturday, Sept. 18 at Whidbey Children’s Theater in Langley.

The two gents started working about a year ago on the show. They had been in another production together and discovered that they both had stories from the past that would make an interesting theater piece.

“I studied British literature, and Don is a Brit, and we connected over that,” Churchill said.

“Don started to show me stories he wrote about World War II, and then we realized we both had stories that came from both sides of the Atlantic.”

Wilkins first started writing his stories after he had lived in the United States for some time.

“I ended up with a collection of about 50 stories,” Wilkins said.

“It was interesting to look back and to be able to remember all the things I lived through, even after all this time.”

Wilkins said he and Churchill were able to collaborate well because of the great connections between the two worlds.

“Even back then, I knew all about American news and pop culture because of movies and the radio,” Wilkins said.

But even though they both grew up in the same generation, they still have two different points of view of what went on during World War II and the decades that followed, he said.

Wilkins has stories of being evacuated when he was just a child, while Churchill recalls the time he traveled across the country in a van with four gay men. The elements of each story are meant to spark a variety of emotions for the audience.

The two actors have performed the show a few times already, but have added refinements to the script, plus a bit of new ambience with World War II-era music.

“The Keeney Sisters” include performers Kira Vogt, Joni Takanikos and Marta Mulholland, who will be singing songs of the period, with Eric Vanderbilt-Mathews as the accompanist.

The Keeney Sisters are a take-off on the Andrews Sisters, a popular singing group of the 1940s.

The show is split into two evenings of one-act shows.

The first night will focus on the war years and feature songs from that period, including “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

The final night ventures into the 1960s and tells stories of a different time, with songs from the Beatles, Joni Mitchell and others. But the Keeney Sisters are no longer what they used to be. They begin to fall out of sync after years of working together, which changes the chemistry onstage, Churchill said of the final act.

Singer Takanikos said she thinks that the stories are compelling, unique and interesting.

“One-acts are powerful because the arc of emotion does not get interrupted,” she said.

The show will be performed for two nights only. Act I is 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17 and Act II is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18.

Tickets are $10 with festival seating. All proceeds go to support the theater.

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