Before the American Revolution, essayist Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” How appropriate those words are today, one year after the physical and emotional debris left from the New York City and Washington attacks. Not since World War II has our country faced such an uncertain future.

To get through those dark days, Americans–the “greatest generation” as Tom Brokaw calls them–relied on their gut instincts, grit, patience, tenacity, and determination for their survival and for the preservation of liberty. Like them, we need to rely on the same ideals–plus something else. Like them, we should rely on and seek diversions from the turmoil in an effort to lead our lives as normally as possible. Entertainers in those trying times continued to offer their talents to divert Americans’ attention from the horrors of war. USO shows and canteens here and abroad gave respite to our servicemen and servicewomen. Hollywood continued to produce motion pictures through the war, often with patriotic themes. The lights on Broadway continued to shine.

And through it all, I’m proud to say even here in Peoria, Peoria Players Theatre did its part; indeed, we’ve never closed our doors. Peoria Players began in 1919, and through the Great Depression and World War II our doors remained open. Productions were staged and mounted; audiences laughed, cried, and were entertained. That’s precisely the attitude we need and will adopt today in these times that try men’s souls.

Ours, too, shall one day be called “a great generation” for our ability to persevere–and it’s the civic duty of entertainers and technicians–professional and amateur–to carry on. And it’s that spirit that separates us from other peoples and ennobles us when compared to our enemies.

Thank you to Arts Alive! for recognizing the importance of the arts and for supporting our mission. The show must and will go on–and so shall we all. AA!