Music has untold power. It can bridge the divide between enemies, unlock forgotten memories, and even link the past to the present and future. It also has the ability to turn our gaze inward, connecting us to the hidden truths lying deep below the surface. Musicals catalyze that superpower, transforming a childhood home, a worn letter, or a hand-me-down robe into a sweeping refrain that can unearth generations’ worth of stories and shake us to our very core. Unknown Soldier illuminates the untold, unknowable histories we carry inside.

After its March 2020 run at Playwrights Horizons was cut short by the onset of the pandemic, Daniel Goldstein, the mind behind the show’s sharp-witted book, knew Arena Stage would make a perfect home for the piece. In the intervening four years since that production, the show has only deepened, its premise further clarified by the all-too present anxieties of our world. As the fingerprints of grief, both personal and communal, continue to linger on our collective souls, Unknown Soldier, featuring a soaring score by the late, Michael Friedman, emerges bearing a beautifully vital story about what it means to hold on to love—and to each other—amidst a turbulent past and a precarious present.

This multi-generational tale spans nearly 100 years of American history and leads us on an engrossing, and at times whimsical, search for the truth behind the fabled “Unknown Soldier.” As we watch Ellen Rabinowitz chafe against familial preconceptions and wrestle with the repercussions of her actions, we recognize and ultimately find solace in the fact that sometimes, though the world can be cold and the past merciless, the answers lie within our own families, our own shoeboxes of secrets, our own selves. 

And though its scope and score are sweeping, love sits at the heart of Unknown Soldier. The giddy romantic love of two young people who feel a universe of possibility in the touch of a hand and the fiercely determined love of someone who refuses to let their memory be lost to the sands of time or the scars of war. To decide to love is to begin anew. And to decide to make theater in this moment is to love: to believe, fundamentally, despite the fear and uncertainty, in the beauty of the unknown, in the exigent promise of a new beginning. 

I am so honored to be able to support the continued development of this beautiful new musical as it weaves a tapestry both heartfelt and mysterious, buoyant and grounded, full-of-memory and imbued with hope. Like a well-lived and well-loved relative, Unknown Soldier is full of stories and wisdom, hiding in plain sight, begging for our curiosity and our empathy.  

The theater is nothing if not a place for past and present to converge—a place to dig into the archives of our memories and breathe new life into them, to gather ourselves to laugh, cry, love, and, hopefully, heal—together.

Kerstin Anderson in Playwrights Horizons production of Unknown Soldier. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Photo of Hana Sharif by Cheshire Isaac.