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The American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) has announced that Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is the recipient of a 2006 Leadership in American History Award for the film Woodstock’s Civil War: A Speakchorus, produced in partnership with Woodstock Union High School (WUHS). The 22-minute film was directed and produced by local filmmaker Charles Rattigan. The AASLH award singled out the contributions of Rattigan, WUHS Theater Director Harriet Worrell, historian Howard Coffin, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Superintendent Rolf Diamant and park rangers Laura Cohen and Susanne McDonald. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in their 61st year, are the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.
Superintendent Diamant is also the recipient of the first National Park Service - Northeast Region Civic Engagement Award for his leadership role “connecting the park and the community in a shared exploration of nearly forgotten history.”
This program inspired WUHS Theater Director Harriet Worrell to create an original performance entitled Woodstock's Civil War: A Speakchorus based on the themes of the tour. Supported by a National Park Service Civic Engagement Grant, Rattigan’s film chronicles the development of the speakchorus, a rapid-fire dramatic reading of material drawn largely from personal diaries and letters of the period. The film also captures the experiences of the ten student performers as they use theater and film to research and interpret local history and in many ways reconnect to their community. The film premiered at
Writing in support of the AASLH award, historian and geographer David Lowenthal noted, “When I first saw this film I was stunned by its combination of historical scholarship and local immediacy. It brilliantly commingles narration and reflection, Civil War and post-Civil War scenes and reminiscences, national and local insights. It conveys extraordinary racial and social empathy. Above all, it portrays with utter conviction how, in the course of role-playing their village history, the young people who star in this production come to deepen their awareness of place and their appreciation of how the past informs and exalts the present in their own home town.”