Glory Denied Is This Summer's Second-stage Dramatic American Opera
Glory Denied is a gripping tale of an American family during one of our nation’s most turbulent times. It tells the true story of Colonel Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war, from his suffering in the jungle of southeast Asia to his personal torment following his liberation as he returns to a country he no longer recognizes and a family that barely recognizes him.
Music and libretto by Tom Cipullo
Based on the book by Tom Philpott
Thursday, July 22, 2021, 7:30pm
Saturday, July 24, 2021, 1:00pm
Approximate running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
The performance will not have an intermission
Sung in English
This production contains adult language
Bard College at Simon's Rock
Daniel Arts Center, McConnell Theater
Great Barrington, MA
The Creative Team
Hair and Make-up
English Diction Coach
Production Stage Manager
The action takes place during and after the Vietnam War.
Act I - In Captivity
Colonel Floyd James Thompson (Jim), America’s longest-held prisoner of war, looks back on his years as a captive. He sees himself as a young man and recalls episodes from his nine-year ordeal – escape attempts, torture, the overwhelming loneliness of four years in solitary confinement, and being forced to sign a propaganda statement. Through it all, he finds the strength to survive in memories of his family. He recalls every letter his beloved wife, Alyce, sent to him before his capture. Pregnant with their fourth child, Alyce receives the news that Jim’s surveillance plane has been shot down. Denied any reliable information about his status or whereabouts, Alyce soon begins a relationship with another man, Harold. She eventually moves in with him and tells the children that their father has died. Alyce denies permission for Jim’s name to be released to the public as missing in action, nor inscribed on one of the P.O.W. bracelets that were common at the time. She consults a lawyer in an effort to have him declared legally dead. In captivity, Jim finds comfort in the 23rd Psalm.
Act II - Welcome Home
The P.O.W.’s are released and Jim returns home, but the Pentagon honors another man, a Navy pilot, as the longest-held prisoner. With the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, Jim receives a letter of welcome from President Nixon, the text noting ominously that “some things about America may appear to have changed” since his departure. Alyce meets Jim and confesses her new relationship. She offers to go away if that is what he wishes, but Jim decides to attempt a reconciliation. He notes how the nation has become different during his ordeal, and soon, the couple begins to fight. Jim complains that Alyce is not the wife he left behind. For her part, Alyce asserts her independence, refusing to be the docile and obedient wife. She tells of what her life was like during his absence, of the callous behavior of neighbors and family, of late-night crank calls from malicious strangers, and of her fear and loneliness. Jim visits the church where he and Alyce were married. He speaks to the congregation hopefully, ignoring the fact that his dream of home and family has been shattered.
Years pass and Jim, having suffered a stroke, lives alone and estranged from his family. He struggles with all that has occurred.