“The Accidental Hero” will be playing at Rudder Theatre on Nov. 18. This is a multimedia one-man show about a WWII American officer who miraculously liberates the Czech villages of his grandparents. It’s a true story, written and performed by his grandson Patrick Dewane. Looking ahead to the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Patrick presents the dramatic retelling of the story of his grandfather, Matt Konop. This show comes to the Rudder Theatre on Texas A&M University for one night only on Friday, Nov. 18 at 7pm.
Patrick Dewane’s grandfather refused to talk about his service in the war. Yet when he died, his basement yielded a treasure trove of typewritten accounts, photos and rare film footage to include Matt Konop being carried by townspeople of Domazlice, Czechoslovakia, 1945. Dewane brings this archival material to glowing life as an enthralling, humorous, and heart-warming tale of miraculous escapes and astonishing coincidences. This touching show runs from belly laughs to tears. Dewane takes on a dozen different roles as he powerfully recounts his grandfather’s journey from Omaha Beach, the Battle of the Bulge, and the end of WWII. In the last week of the war, Konop’s story turns away from a soldier’s survival tale to something from mythology. He discovers his lost identity, embraced by the tribe he never knew. His was an epic homecoming. As he freed the Czechs, they liberated him.
Like many of his generation Matt Konop didn’t talk about the war when he returned. His story vanished with passing time. Back in Czechoslovakia, the Communist coup of 1948 brought an ugly, repressive regime that would last the rest of Konop’s life. The Communists also changed the official history of WWII and eliminated the fact that the US Army had liberated Southwestern Czechoslovakia. So while Konop’s story faded in America, it was illegal to tell it in Czechoslovakia. When Konop died in 1983 his family knew little of his heroics, and the Czechs were forbidden to talk about it. At Konop’s funeral, there was no American flag on the casket, no bugler playing taps at the grave. It seemed his war stories were buried with him.
Twenty years after his death, his long-forgotten writings were discovered in a family basement. Along with his war manuscript were reels of color and black and white film he shot during the war on a Kodak 8mm handheld camera. Konop’s grandson, Patrick, became obsessed with what was found and turned the story, film footage, and period music into The Accidental Hero, a 90-minute one-man show.