‘Letters from Home’ posts loving, musical tribute to veterans

Published 5:30 am Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Erinn Dearth, left, with Dan Beckmann and Courtney Groves will perform “Letters from Home,” a tribute to veterans of World War II and Vietnam. — Courtesy Dan Beckmann Photography


There’s no need to wait for Memorial Day or Veterans Day to remember and honor the men and women who have served our country. In fact, you can do so this Sunday, Feb. 10, starting at 3 p.m. That’s when the musical tribute “Letters from Home” will be performed. The show, presented by the Franklin-Southampton Concert Association, will take place in the Southampton High School auditorium, 25530 Southampton Parkway, Courtland.

Bringing the performance locally are Courtney Groves, Dan Beckmann and founder Erinn Dearth, who views what they do as taking a message across the country.

“I feel less like a performer and more like a missionary. This show is our way of getting the word out. We truly believe in making the world a better place,” Dearth said. “There can be 1,000 people in the audience, but I can hone in on one person.”

“Letters” has its origin in a Sunday dinner conversation that Dearth had with her late father, Pat, who was a Coast Guard veteran. His suggestion about creating such a program inspired her, and she went on to create it in 2010. Initially, the work took her about two months, and the show was first a three-part Andrew Sisters-style tribute to veterans of World War II.

Since then, the program has evolved to where there are several versions.

“You’ll never get the same show twice,” said Dearth, who added that along with Beckmann and Groves, they came up with new shows. Hint: Expect the trio to interact with the audience.

The one that you will see is themed “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” The first act will be focus on WWII veterans, and the second is for those who fought during the Vietnam War.

A three-piece band will accompany the performers as they sing and dance — yes, dance.

Beckmann, who said he studied acting in college, acknowledged that when he joined, he was “a wretched dancer.” But he learned quickly from Dearth and now can tap dance and sing as needed.

Groves can recall her stage debut was playing a grandmother in a show while a first grader. She’s been hooked ever since. She went on to earn a degree in musical theater, and has done a few shows back home in Minneapolis. A casual conversation with Dearth is how she got involved almost three years ago.

Both see their entry into “Letters” as “kind of serendipitous” and feel they are all a great fit.

Dearth, who is also the artistic director of Spring Theatre in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a national tap dance champ.

Groves said she has a grandfather, uncles and cousins who have served in the military, one in Vietnam. That portion of the show, she said, “is especially close to my heart. I love rock ‘n’ roll of the ’60s and ’70s. I get super pumped.”

Beckmann said he does not have such a strong connection to service, but acknowledges he’s learned from the target audience of “How great a sacrifice they [the veterans] have made. I really have a new respect for them,” he added.

“We try to get that across,” said Dearth. “It’s a two-fold: patriotism and politics are not the same; second, there’s a lot more good than bad. We put that message in every single show.”

There have been so many shows they’ve done together that choosing any one in particular as a personal stand out was difficult. Groves remembered the first time they played as a VA hospital and saw how they were able to lift the patients’ spirits.

“It’s so hard to choose,” said Beckmann. “Every performance is special, different and unique.”

At a show for the 100th anniversary of the American Legion, though, “That was amazing. We touched people in a cool way.”

The troupe will also take the show to nursing homes and retirement communities that don’t have a lot of funding.

“It’s a small thing for us, but humongous for them,” said Dearth.

Tickets at the door for non-subscribers is $30 per adult; $10 for students with ID.

For more information about the show, contact Nancy Rowe at 653-7914.