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New play brings P.E.I. story to life

Paul Batchilder, centre, meets with Hank Stinson, the actor who will play his role in “At the Dog Leg Turn of the Road”, a play that premieres Saturday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m., at the Kings Playhouse, Georgetown. It shares the journey that Batchilder and his son, Andy, took to retrace the steps of their father/grandfather in the Second World War. With them is Haley Zavo, Batchilder's daughter, as well as executive director at the Kings Playhouse.
Paul Batchilder, centre, meets with Hank Stinson, the actor who will play his role in “At the Dog Leg Turn of the Road”, a play that premieres Saturday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m., at the Kings Playhouse, Georgetown. It shares the journey that Batchilder and his son, Andy, took to retrace the steps of their father/grandfather in the Second World War. With them is Haley Zavo, Batchilder's daughter, as well as executive director at the Kings Playhouse. - Sally Cole

Inspired by a true-life story, "At the Dog Leg Turn of the Road" premieres at Kings Playhouse in Georgetown on Nov. 9

GEORGETOWN, P.E.I. —

A new theatrical work is getting ready to hit the stage.

“At the Dog Leg Turn of the Road” premieres Saturday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m., at the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown.

It’s the tale of two men who follow the footsteps of their father/grandfather whose legacy in the Second World War was tarnished by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Everyone has someone who went overseas (to fight) and came back not the same. And everybody wonders why,” says Haley Zavo, executive director at the Kings Playhouse.

For one family, some of these questions are answered in this play – the real-life story of Paul Batchilder of Georgetown and his son, Andy, who traced the footsteps of Sgt. Lawrence Batchilder from England to Juno Beach, eventually arriving in Tilly-sur-Seulles, the place where he was wounded during the Battle of Normandy.  It was written by Batchilder's granddaughter, Melissa, who received regular updates from her brother and father.

Sgt. Lawrence Batchilder appears with his children, Joan, left, and Paul in 1942. He’s the subject of “At the Dog Leg Turn of the Road”. Submitted
Sgt. Lawrence Batchilder appears with his children, Joan, left, and Paul in 1942. He’s the subject of “At the Dog Leg Turn of the Road”. Submitted

Prior to the trip, Andy did research at the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum in Amherst, N.S., and found this written in a book: “Sgt. Batchilder was found at the dog leg turn of the road. He advised the convoy of troops that there were snipers in one direction.”

Realizing his father was a hero for directing his convoy out of danger was “emotional” to Paul. 

So was finding the actual field where his father lay.

Shaking his head in disbelief, his thoughts returned to the bloody battle scene: "He laid there, with his wounds, for 23 hours with the Germans around him. He was told not to move. What saved him, I think, was holding a St. Christopher’s medal.”

Paul was also shocked to discover that nearly 200 young people were killed in that battle. Immediately he understood that after this traumatic experience things would never be the same for his father.

“I realized that their bodies would be in front of him.”

During their journey, the father/son duo also visited the hospital in Southampton, England, where Sgt. Batchilder convalesced following his injury.

At Kings Playhouse, Zavo, who is also Batchilder’s granddaughter, is thrilled to see her family’s story come to the stage.

“It’s always such a privilege to tell real stories. To see the story in the lives of real people and bring them to the stage is a real honour."

It's also “daunting” for the actor who plays Paul.

“It’s a little scary to have the actual person you’re playing sitting in the audience,” says Hank Stinson.

But he’s ready for the challenge.

“It’s my job to make what’s absolutely clear on the stage … The play is very insightful from Paul and Andy’s point of view, and Melissa has captured all of this in the piece.”

Although a tribute to Batchilder, the play is universal  because it speaks to all families affected by war, Stinson adds.

“My father was in the Second World War. He never talked about his experience. I’ve got his medals in a drawer at home, but I don’t know how he got them. That’s because people tend not to talk about it because it was a horrifying experience.”

Paul agrees.

Following his late father’s footsteps has helped him understand his dad more.

“He drank a lot and was miserable when he drank. But we never understood why. We didn’t realize that he had PTSD or shell shock, as we called it back then. 

“But he was a good father. He always held a job.”


If you are going

  • What: “At the Dog Leg Turn of the Road” by Melissa Batchilder
  • Details: The multimedia production consists of monologues by Hank Stinson interspersed with video footage and period music provided by Haley Zavo
  • When and where: Saturday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m., Kings Playhouse Georgetown
  • Tickets: Go to kingsplayhouse.com
  • Fundraiser: A portion of the proceeds will go to the P.E.I. arm of Brave and Broken, an organization of veterans helping veterans.

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