The Filson's Educational Programming: One Act Dramas

By Brian R. Pollock
Special Events Coordinator

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As The Filson strives to share the significant stories of our region, we continually work to develop innovative methods of reaching the students of our area. One of those ways is through our two one-act dramas, One Wore Blue, One Wore Gray and The Great Journey.

These two dramas help to bring history to life by taking it off the pages of the letters and journals and putting it on the stage. 

The Filson Historical Society and Nancy Niles Sexton, founder of Walden Theatre, collaborated to produce two dramas that would tell the stories of history. The Great Journey is the tale of the Lewis and Clark Expedition as told by Captain William Clark. In One Wore Blue, One Wore Gray, a storyteller shares the lives of two Louisvillians, Alfred Pirtle and Johnny Green, who both fought in the Civil War. These two dramas were developed with an elementary-age audience in mind and resource guides have been created to assist teachers in presenting these topics. 

Sexton spent many days at The Filson Historical Society immersing herself in the journals and letters concerning these two events. By reading the papers of William Clark, Alfred Pirtle and Johnny Green, Sexton was able to bring the characters to life in her dramas with their own words. With her many years of experience with children and theater, she was able to craft two engaging tales that educate and entertain. The end results of her extensive research are the two dramas that we now offer to schools throughout the area. 

One Wore Blue, One Wore Gray begins with the storyteller introducing us to Alfred Pirtle and Johnny Green, both Louisvillians. Pirtle, from a wealthy family, received a commission to serve in the Union Army as an officer. Green, whose family had fallen on hard times, joined the Confederate Army as a regular soldier to be “a hero to all those pretty girls in hoop skirts and lace shawls.” The play goes on to detail the differences that the two soldiers faced during the war. Pirtle led the life of an officer with all the privileges therein. Green marched and drilled to the point of developing “camp fever.” They both came to the same destination, a small creek in Tennessee for the Battle of Chickamauga. Their journeys differed in almost every detail but the end result is that students gain a greater appreciation for the Civil War experience.

William Clark comes out of the pages of history to share his tale of The Great Journey. Beginning in Louisville, Clark recounts the steps of the Expedition as he takes the children to the Pacific Ocean. Students meet the new people, the new animals and can almost see the new land as they trace the path with Clark along his map. A tense meeting with the Teton Sioux, a frightful encounter with the “great white bear” and the harrowing crossing of the Bitterroot Mountains all bring this story to life. After three years on the trail with Clark, the audience gains a better understanding of the journey itself. 

A unique element of these two dramas is the question and answer session that follows the performance. Rather than just abruptly ending the lesson, the actors take a few moments to answer the many questions of the students. Of course, there is not enough time to address them all, but after a performance students are engaged and ready to learn more about the significant stories of our region. 

These dramas are one of many ways that The Filson’s educational programming works to meet our mission of sharing the significant stories of the Ohio Valley. They are available for presentations as part of a field trip to The Filson as well as in the school. The total cost of the drama is $150.00. For additional information about these dramas or to schedule one of the many educational opportunities available, please contact The Filson at (502) 635-5083. We look forward to bringing history to life for all learners in our region. •


Volume 6, Number 4

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The Filson Historical Society
1310 South Third Street - Louisville, KY 40208
Phone: (502) 635-5083 Fax: (502) 635-5086

The Ferguson Mansion and Office

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Monday - Friday: 9 am. - 5 pm.
Saturday: 9 am. - 12 noon