Play tells story of Vietnam War draft-board
Events illustrate 'Minnesota 8,' other dissenters of the era
By Richard Chin
If you want to relive — or learn about — the turbulent
protest and dissent surrounding the war in Vietnam, you'll
have plenty of chances over the next few weeks.
Last weekend, the History Theatre in St. Paul, in collaboration
with the University of Minnesota Theatre, opened its production
of "Peace Crimes: The Minnesota Eight vs. The War,"
about the arrest, trial and imprisonment of peace protesters
who broke into draft-board offices throughout the state to
destroy draft records in 1970.
Twin Cities Public Television's Channel 17 will rebroadcast
a program about the making of the play called "Peace
Crimes Backstage: The Mn 8," next month.
And tonight, Daniel Ellsberg, the Vietnam-era government analyst
turned peace activist, will be in town to talk about "American
Democracy in Dissent" with University of Minnesota political
science professor Larry Jacobs as part of the U's Great Conversations
Ellsberg, who testified during one of the Minnesota Eight
trials and almost used the event to release the Pentagon Papers
— the secret study of U.S. decision-making during the
war — also was expected to attend the play.
During the next few weeks, a project created by Minnesota
Eight members called "Peace and War in the Heartland"
will continue a series of talks and seminars and draft-lottery
re-enactments at campuses, including Metro State University
on Wednesday, St. Olaf College on Thursday and Saturday, the
University of Wisconsin-River Falls on March 11 and the College
of St. Catherine on March 13.
Ron Peluso, History Theatre artistic director, said "Peace
Crimes" is the product of a nearly three-year process
that began when Frank Kroncke, one of the Minnesota Eight,
showed up in his office with a memoir of his experiences.
Peluso thought it could be turned into a play about the price
"I felt it could be an interesting play because even
though there's no draft today, there's some parallels with
what's going on in the war in Iraq," Peluso said.
Besides, the History Theatre had never done a play that focused
on the Vietnam War, said Peluso, who narrowly missed being
"It took a lot of courage to stand up against the war,"
said Peluso, who directs the play. "I don't think I had
Peluso enlisted Los Angeles playwright Doris Baizley to come
up with the script. She said the Minnesota Eight members she
interviewed reminded her of the friends she had, including
her boyfriend, who had volunteered to fight in Vietnam.
"I think it was because they were willing to pay the
price" of fighting for what they believed in, Baizley
Twin Cities Public Television executive Tom Trow said the
actions of the draft-board raiders personally benefited him.
He received his induction notice in 1970, but instead of reporting
for his 6:30 a.m. physical, he slept in because he had decided
to flee to Canada. He woke to read a newspaper story about
a draft-board raid that apparently destroyed his records.
"Nothing ever happened to me," he said.
Peluso said most of the cast of the play — which includes
13 University of Minnesota students — weren't alive
when the Minnesota Eight were convicted and sentenced to five
years in federal prison. Many of their parents weren't even
old enough to have been drafted.
But members of the Minnesota Eight say their experiences are
"There were all these lies about Vietnam, just as there
are all these lies a
Kroncke, 63, of St. Paul, said he could easily see the draft
"We are so draft-ready.
IF YOU GO
Performances of the History Theatre and the University of
Minnesota Theatre "Peace Crimes: The Minnesota Eight
vs. the War" runs through March 9 at the University of
Minnesota Rarig Center, 330 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis. For
more information, see historytheatre.com or call 651-292-4323.
The University Minnesota Great Conversations program "American
Democracy in Dissent," with Daniel Ellsberg and Larry
Jacobs, is at 7:30 p.m. today at the Ted Mann Concert Hall,
2128 4th St. S., Minneapolis. See www.cce.umn.edu/conversations/
or call 612-624-4000.
"Peace Crimes Backstage" will be
aired on the Minnesota Channel at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 1
p.m. Sunday. The Minnesota Channel can be found on Channel
243 on St. Paul Comcast and Channel 202 on Minneapolis Comcast.
More information about Peace and War in the
Heartland Project events is available at pwh-mn.org.