Stars & Stripes Canteen at the National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center revived the patriotic spirit of the 1940s, on Thursday, October 13, 2011, in Old City Philadelphia.

That evening, it hosted The Stars & Stripes Canteen– a completely faithful replication of the USO shows regularly staged throughout World War II. The USO shows offered first-class entertainment, to the U.S. servicemen and servicewomen, who needed a well-deserved break from the rigors of eradicating fascism, around the globe.

The Stars & Stripes Canteen at the Constitution Center took place in order to kick off its latest, temporary blockbuster exhibit on World War II- namely, Fighting for Democracy: Who is the “We” in “We the People”?

It is now open to the public, and visitors can see it at the National Constitution Center from October 14, 2011 – January 16, 2012. Admission to Fighting for Democracy is included with your regular admission ticket.

The Stars & Stripes Canteen was a special opportunity to see Fighting for Democracy, before it officially opened to the public, on Friday morning. Tickets could be purchased by non-members, but Constitution Center members received a discount, as one of the benefits of membership.

The Stars & Stripes Canteen – A Chance to Preview the Fighting for Democracy Exhibit, As Well as Its Live Theatrical Performance

Guests had the opportunity to tour Fighting for Democracy. The most compelling attraction was seeing the heart of the exhibition – namely, the premiere of the original live theater production. This show, with a trio of actors, is performed several times each day, in an intimate performance space, within the exhibit, itself. The show lasts about 30 minutes or so, and there were two performances during The Stars & Stripes Canteen. (We saw the first one.) The actors are tremendously talented, and engage with the audience in a very impressive way. They truly bring to life their characters – the seven individuals, whose experiences during World War II are the centerpiece of Fighting for Democracy.

“Fighting for Democracy engages audiences in ways that are personal and immediate and that transcend the traditional museum experience,” said National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner. “By giving voice to these seven individuals through theater, we hope to inspire a visceral connection with their bravery, their choices, and their legacies.”

The Stars & Stripes Canteen – The Circa 1940s Entertainment Offered Unparalleled Nostalgia

The famous USO Liberty Bells were The Stars & Stripes Canteen’s main entertainment. A trio of USO Liberty Bells performed musical songs and sets that would have been typical of the period, on a small stage. The stage background was entirely done in red, white, and blue balloons, spelling out “USO”.

But the entertainment wasn’t limited to just the stage. The Society Hill Dance Academy offered free dance lessons to guests, and their skilled, experienced instructors demonstrated 1940s swing dancing, throughout the evening. The Charleston, Lindy Hop and the East Coast Swing were featured (Len Goodman from ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” would have been proud).

The Stars & Stripes Canteen – Guests Could Outfit Themselves in 1940s-Style Costumes and Accessories, and Take Home Photos on the Spot

Another perk for guests, was the fun of posing for photos in vintage 1940s costumes, made possible by the Arden Theatre Company. Cherry Hill Photo’s kiosk would take photos of the guests, and show them to you on the spot. If you liked how the photos turned out, they’d print them out for you, with The Stars & Stripes Canteen logo on them, and given them to you, along with a nice souvenir display folder. Visitors had the choice of Army, Navy, or Marine military attire, as well as civilian clothes, with fedoras, etc., for the men, and elaborate hats for the women.

The guests were well-fed throughout the evening, also. An all-American menu buffet offered, among other things, chicken pot pie, tilapia, bratwursts, pork and beans, spaghetti and meatballs, with French pastries, rum raisin cake, and lemon pie for dessert, along with coffee and tea.

At the open bar, popular 1940s cocktails were available. The Philadelphia Brewing Company provided their microbrews, Kenzinger and Walt Wit (the latter named after the poet Walt Whitman, with the deliberately misspelled “Wit” being a pun on the cheesesteak order of “Wit”).

The Stars & Stripes Canteen Photo Album, On Our Facebook Page – Please Check It Out!

In addition, we have a photo album, with 19 pictures from The Stars & Stripes Canteen, on our Facebook page – please check it out!

The Stars & Stripes Canteen - National Constitution Center - October 13, 2011

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