Obsessed with flight, possessing navigational skills and knowledge of the skies, and mathematical proficiency, Captain Ferguson devises a plan, on the eve of battle against the Germans in WWI, for a great dirigible attack.
“Captain Ferguson’s School for Balloon Warfare,” an Oracle Theatre production at 59E59 Theaters through September 4, is about zealous patriotism, heroics, and the single-minded futility of war.
David Nelson as Captain Ferguson gets ready to hoist his balloon. Photo © Alisha Spielmann
In Isaac Rathbone’s “Captain Ferguson’s School for Balloon Warfare,” based on actual events, it is 1917 and U.S. Army Captain Thomas Ferguson has been asked to turn aerial balloons into a weapon against Kaiser Wilhelm. The character of Captain Ferguson is inspired by Captain Charles deForest Chandler, the first head of the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps –later to become the United States Air Force.
The play is a one-man show with Captain Ferguson’s monologue enlivened by
video projections and radio communications that add other voices to his story. These voices include his right hand man, Lieutenant Archibald Prentice, and three skeptical Generals.
“Have you realized,” a General asks, “that these men are helpless, Ferguson?” However, having proven their usefulness in reconnaissance, Captain Ferguson also proposes to use the large canvas balloons to bombard the enemy line, and stubbornly ignores the challenge of his superiors.
David Nelson as Captain Ferguson answers the call. Photo © Alisha Spielmann
David Nelson acquits himself well as the dedicated and sincere Ferguson, but the play is merely an exploration of a moment that ended in failure and not a full-blown theatrical creation.
Please go to 59 E 59 Theaters for more information on this and other offerings: www.59E59.org