Posted on October 22nd, 2016 by:

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By Pfc. Nat G. Bodian

YANK Field Correspondent

Ascension Island—Recently a plane landed on this little aerial way station in the South Atlantic, carrying among its passengers a tech sergeant. When the GI left here five days later, Yanks on Ascension had put on a two-hour show and organized a theater guild a continue the entertainment program the sergeant had started.

T/Sgt. Lew Kerner of Beverly Hills, Calif., who used to be associated with the William Morris Agency in radio and the theater business, is now on a world trip arranging soldier shows and helping to produce  them at isolated outposts. Kerner says that GIs “can put on good shows anytime, anywhere, from their own talent, and have a helluva lot of fun doing it.”

ascension island

T/Sgt. Kerner dresses T/Sgt. Lawrence Newton

First thing Kerner did after he arrived here was to go through the Form 20s of all the men, looking for soldiers with specialized talents he could use. A buck sergeant who used to be a tailor was natural for costume expert. Another GI who had directed a play in school was put down on Kerner’s list as a production aid. That evening Kerner called a meeting of all the men on his list.

The next day Kerner was all ready to start rehearsals, but his “stars” were missing. A check-up revealed they were all on KP. Obstacles like these kept cropping up, but at last the show was ready to go on before a large and enthusiastic audience in the briefing room.

Everything was all set, except that Kerner still needed a woman’s outfit for a soldier comic. Things looked bad for a while—even the nurses are male on this island base—until Kerner learned that there was a civilian woman in the latest plane to land.

The sergeant asked her to cooperate, but she said that all her extra clothing was in the baggage on the plane. Kerner borrowed a suit of suntans from Supply, and that night the woman enjoyed the show in Army uniform while a GI paraded about on the makeshift stage in the dress she had been wearing.

After the show had gone over successfully, Kerner organized his acting and production staff into a permanent group and gave them a supply of make-up kits, some costumes, scripts and other aids for future plays and entertainments. Then he left Ascension Island to carry on the theatrical-missionary work he had been doing since he first organized soldier shows on the West Coast in June 1942.

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