Peace and War in the Heartland



Play tells story of Vietnam War draft-board raiders
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 series.
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 of protest.

"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 drafted himself.

"It took a lot of courage to stand up against the war," said Peluso, who directs the play. "I don't think I had that courage."

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 said.

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 still relevant.
"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 being reinstated.
"We are so draft-ready.

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 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 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



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