Roger Bunnell became a newspaper boy after his mom lost her job.
His parents divorced and Bunnell, then about 13, and his sister delivered papers to help their family.
So Bunnell knows what it’s like to lug around an 80-pound bag of newspapers. He knows what it’s like to work in the cold and to make other sacrifices.
And while he didn’t have it as rough as newspaper boys in 1899, Bunnell can relate to characters in the musical “Newsies.”
Now, Bunnell, a senior at Midland University, has the lead role in the show about newsboys from that era.
The public is invited to performances at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8, 9 and 10 and 2 p.m. Nov. 11 in Kimmel Theatre on the Midland campus. Cost is $15 for adults and $10 for seniors ages 60 and older and students. High school students get in free.
Based on real characters from history, the musical tells the story of the newspaper boys’ strike in New York.
History records that the newsboys, most of whom came from poor, immigrant families, would buy the papers, then sell them for a tiny profit.
The strike occurred after newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raised the cost of what newsboys paid for the papers – which at first was offset by increased paper sales during the Spanish American War. After sales decreased, the boys went on strike to have the cost lowered.
In the musical, the newsies go on strike after Pulitzer has raised the price.
Bunnell has the role of homeless and rebellious newsboy Jack Kelly (based on the life of Jack Sullivan), who befriends two newcomers to the trade.
“We’re all children; I’m probably the oldest newsie at 17 and everyone is younger than me. We go on strike and rally against the newspaper owners and fight to get the prices back to where they belong. It’s one of those roles I think every guy in musical theater would like to play and I feel pretty honored to do it,” Bunnell said. “I actually have a pretty strong connection to the story. When I was a kid about 12 to 14 years old, my mother lost her job when my parents got a divorce. Because of labor laws, the only job I could get was a newspaper route.”
Bunnell delivered papers before or after school.
“It’s not nearly as bad as it was for those kids,” he said, adding, however, that he did have to quit after-school activities and sports until he was in high school.
Given his experiences, Bunnell believes he can bring much to the role.
“I think I make it real,” he said. “It’s not just another story. It’s not another script. It’s something I experienced. It means a lot to me.”
The actor cites a monologue in the first act where he says the line: “It ain’t no crime being poor.”
“That resonates with me,” Bunnell said. “It’s probably my favorite line in the show.”
Bunnell has no hard feelings about his past.
“It’s just the way life worked,” he said.
Art can mirror life, however, and the show seems to depict that with Cameron Stefanski’s character, Davey.
In the musical, Davey and his little brother must go to work to provide for their family after their father gets hurt.
Stefanski, a junior, likes the line of a fellow cast member who says: “You challenged our whole generation to stand up and demand a place at the table.”
The actor sees an application in modern times.
“There’s a lot happening in our society today and I think that when maybe we feel helpless as young people that we have to find how we can help and be a part of the greater picture,” Stefanski said.
Stefanski, whose character is said to be the brains of the strike, likes having a bigger role than he’s had in a while.
He also enjoys the opportunity to dance in the show.
In contrast, Cody Cozad, who plays Crutchie – a kid with a bad leg – said he’s glad he doesn’t have to dance.
Cozad, who now sports a beard, also said he will shave before he plays the boy said to be the heart of the show.
“He’s a bit of a funny character, which is always nice to play,” Cozad said of Crutchie, “but he does have some serious moments, too.”
In the show, Crutchie’s bad leg will become his downfall when he’s caught after a fight and taken to The Refuge, a jail for kids.
His solo song, “Letters from The Refuge,” is a touching piece, Cozad said, because Crutchie is writing a letter about how he plans to escape – and although he’s locked up—believes the boys can succeed with their plan.
One non-newsie – Hannah Post – plays Katherine Plumber, a newspaper reporter from the New York Sun, who learns about the newsies’ strike and writes about it.
In real life, Annie Kelly was a newswoman said to be loyal to the strike.
Post said that in the musical, Plumber gets the newsies’ stories in the paper which takes their strike to the next level.
Plumber, who comes from a well-to-do family, also becomes a love interest of Jack.
Post, a senior, likes the role of Katherine.
“She is very fierce and independent, which isn’t common of women of that time; she is out there making a life for herself and, ultimately, goes against her family to help all of those children,” Post said, adding, “It’s not just about Katherine writing a newspaper article and growing her career.
“It ultimately becomes Katherine trying to help the children and her friends.”
Cast members believe audiences will like the show.
“I think it has an important message – just because you’re young or poor or injured, you can make a difference. It has nothing to do with money or how old you are,” Bunnell said.
Director Lee Meyer cites another bonus from the show.
“The music is very memorable,” she said. “The audience will go out singing one or more of the songs.”
For event information and to purchase tickets visit: www.midland.edu/tickets or call 402-941-6399 or stop by the box office in Kimmel Theatre. The theater box office is open from 1-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. High school students receive free tickets by visiting: info.midlandu.edu/freetickets
This year, Americans will observe the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I — known as Armistice Day — on Nov. 11.
That day in 1918, peace was made between combatants of a war known as “The War to End All Wars.”
At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, the Lewis and Clark chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will honor fallen heroes at a monument in John C. Fremont City Park.
The public is invited to a short ceremony at the monument on the east side of the park near downtown Fremont.
Names of the fallen will be read. A wreath will be laid and a few words said.
The poem, “In Flanders Field,” written during World War I by John McCrae, will be recited by attendees during the ceremony for the 38 heroes for their sacrifice. The public is encouraged to attend the ceremony to honor the Dodge County men, who served and died.
There will be poppies, a symbol of that war, now sold by military societies to raise funds to help those who once fought for freedom carry on with their lives.
Men whose names are listed on the monument in the local park were young. Most of them were privates. Most were in the Army. They came from farms and small towns.
In Nebraska, 800 lives were lost in World War I. In Dodge County, 250 signed up to fight.
One of the daughters of the Schneider family, once co-owners of the Nye Schneider and Fowler Company in Fremont, chose to join the conflict as a nurse. Her uniform can be found in the Louis E. May Museum.
World War I spanned four bloody years with 4.7 million Americans leaving homes and families, changing lives, especially for the more than 300,000 sick and wounded and 116,516 deaths.
Europe was decimated during the war. Rural land was ruined with trenches and ordinance. Towns were leveled. Livestock destroyed.
The Daughters of the American Revolution responded by sending chickens to France. A few chickens could help keep a family alive and there were very few left in any war zone.
DAR women who contributed to this cause wore pins saying, “I have a chicken in France.”
Armistice Day is now known as Veteran’s Day, a way to honor those men and women who fought bravely in the wars that followed.