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Cast size: 6 to 24m., 4 to 18w., 1 to 20 either gender.
n this gender-bending historical action drama based on her book Memoirs of a Soldier, Nurse, and Spy: A Woman's Adventures in the Union Army, Emma Edmonds enlists as Frank Thompson and serves as a male nurse, then a spy and finally a soldier. Emma was one of more than 400 women who posed as men to fight in the Civil War. Originally from Canada, Emma ran from an abusive father and lived in Michigan as a man, selling books door to door for a trade. Her disguise as Frank leads her into complicated relationships with Nellie, a captured Rebel woman, and Billy, her tent mate. Emma is a deeply religious woman and serves as an assistant to Chaplain Brady, who is the first to detect her secret. Frank is promoted by General Poe and defended against Simpson, a drunken camp mate who suspects her secret, in a "don't ask, don't tell" moment that speaks clearly to the complexities of today's gender-fluid culture. The final life and death actions of the play give a Shakespearean feel to the story, one clearly found in Emma's memoir. The action and battle scenes are interspersed with waiting women singing macabre poems of the day (also found in Emma's book) in an odd juxtaposition of hymn and paean to war. Emma's abolitionist convictions drive her into the war, but, while there, she faces and accepts her own gender identity.