Dig Deeper - Bringing History to Life Onstage

Laurie Flanigan Hegge, a playwright, lyricist and actress living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wrote the book and lyrics for Hormel Girls.  In addition to Hormel Girls, commissioned by the History Theatre in St. Paul in 2007, she has created several original musicals based on real-life historical events including: Twenty Days to Find a Wife (2009), See Jane Vote (2006), and Loose Lips Sink Ships (2001).  We interviewed Laurie for the Hormel Girls Audience Guide and here's what she had to say about bringing history to life onstage... Cassandra: You did a significant amount of research for Hormel Girls. How do you transform original materials like newspaper articles, scrapbooks, and interviews into a story onstage?

Laurie: The research, which in the case of HG included a lot of first person interviews, impacts every inch of the writing. You hear a story and think “that will be an incredible song.” Someone tells you they used to travel with a chicken in a shoebox and suddenly a character emerges. This play couldn’t be this play without the research and the original Hormel Girls who offered their stories up to me. If you mentioned an aspect of this show, or a character trait, I could trace that detail back to a photo or an interview or a real person. I am wholly dependent upon that original source material when I write. That said, this play is a fictional account of the real caravan. In theatre, our limitations define us... The original caravan had at least 60 girls at any given time. So how do I represent that entire experience with only six women? That’s the job of the playwright. It’s fun to solve those problems. Characters may be based on or inspired by real people, but in the end, they are invented, just like the dialogue is invented. But it’s fun to talk to an audience and say “oh yes, that really happened.” Often people don’t believe it. Here’s a fun note: There was a real Bud, and he saw the original production. I sat behind him in the theatre. *Spoiler alert* When the romance happened, he turned to the person next to him and said “I don’t remember that.” But he enjoyed his fictional self making off with the girl in the end.

Dig Deeper - Dressing for the Part


Although the Hormel Girls were professional performers from all walks of life in the later years of the Corps, in the beginning they were no strangers to wearing a uniform -  all of them were veteran "G.I. Jills" returning from World War II.

As vice chairman of the American Legion's National Employment Committee, Jay C. Hormel was part of an all-out effort to find jobs for returning soldiers. Finding jobs for women veterans who wanted to work was particularly challenging.

Training for the Championship

In 1947, Jay Hormel planned to defied convention by sending the first all-female senior drum and bugle corps to compete against men in the American Legion National Drum and Bugle Corps Championship.

20130928162227626_0001Daily Rehearsal Schedule

2.5 hours:  Sectional Practice

1 hour:  Lunch Break

2 hours:  Full Ensemble Rehearsal

Training also included several miles of parade marching each day, including a final mile when the women would no longer play their instruments but rather sing as they marched.  They earned admiration from their male competitors, with good reason.  The Hormel Girls SPAM American Legion Post 570 Drum and Bugle Corps placed thirteenth out of the forty-nine competing units, just missing the cut for the twelfth-place position in the finals by .20 of a point!

Hormel Girls Sing Along 1947

Clink on the link below to an online article from MINNPOST.  Scroll down the article and check out the video of the 1947 Christmas radio broadcast of Music with the Hormel Girls radio show.  This show was broadcast live from Fort Meyer, VA. Hormel Girls Radio Broadcast

In this interview Carolyn Eklin described the gruelling touring schedule:   "From Monday to Wednesday, we'd be in the field, visiting every grocery store and supermarket within 150 miles of the main city," Eklin remembered. "Wednesday afternoon we'd come back and rehearse on Thursday — we'd always be booked into the biggest auditorium in the city. Then we'd do a show. Friday we'd tape the radio show before an audience. On Saturday we'd sometimes rehearse until noon and then we'd leave for the next city.  We had Sundays off."

Introducing Dig Deeper Wednesdays!

Greetings and Salutations! If we haven't met yet, my name is Cassandra Proball and I just joined Lyric Arts this past April as the new full-time Education Director.  One of the best parts of this job is acting as a kind of resident "dramaturg" - researching the productions to help deepen the theater experience for both the cast and our audiences.  I often discover lots of interesting information that won't fit into either our Audience Guides or the Dig Deeper section of the program, so I thought it would be fun to start a Dig Deeper Blog.

Cassandra Proball

Every Wednesday I'll post a fun little fact about either a current or upcoming production like this....

Did you know that by 1959 Geo. A. Hormel & Co. produced 1 billion cans of SPAM®?   To find out more about how Hormel Foods grew from a small, turn-of-the-century Austin, MN company to being named one of the 400 Best Big Companies in America by Forbes Magazine, check out the company's timeline.

Next week:  more about a day in the life of the Hormel Girls!