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‘Will’s War,’ a play based on the historical novel, honors Flagler alumnus, playwright’s great-great grandfather

Apr 26, 2017

Flagler College alumnus William Windle, ’16, will present a reading of his play “Will’s War,” adapted from his grandmother Janice Woods Windle’s novel of the same name on Tuesday, May 2 at 4 p.m. in the college’s Gamache-Koger Theater. It is free and open to the public.

One hundred years ago, the attention of the nation was briefly directed towards Seguin, Texas, where young German-American William Adolph Bergfeld, Will Windle’s great-great grandfather, was put on trial for treason at a time of heightened nationalism and hostility toward foreigners. Two generations later, Bergfeld’s granddaughter mined 3,000 pages of trial transcripts to tell his story in a well-reviewed book released within months of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

The play, like the novel, tells the true story of Bergfeld (pictured below), a postal worker and union organizer who faced a six-week trial for treason when he got on the wrong side of entrenched powers on the north Texas prairie. If he was found guilty, he would be hanged, leaving a wife and two young daughters.

A picture of William Bergfeld.

“This a story about real lives impacted by fear and hatred,” said Janice Woods Windle, who wrote the novel “Will’s War” after researching her family’s history. “In 1917 our nation was being pulled into World War I and anti-German sentiment was high. My great-grandfather and his family had fled Germany to escape the political forces there, but that did not matter to some of his neighbors.”

Will Windle, the playwright, noted that at the time of the events depicted in “Will’s War,” the law treated German-Americans differently. In some places speaking German was prohibited, German-Americans were required to register themselves, and the government kept a list of “Subjects of the Teutonic Order” based on reports by prominent residents. 

“Sadly, many of the themes raised by Will’s trial are still relevant today,” he said.  “Because the play represents events that happened 100 years ago, it offers a different perspective to these issues.”

The reading will feature Flagler alumni, faculty and students, alongside professional and community actors.  Current Flagler students Mykala Bazzell and Zakiya Green will join with alumni Jillian Cicalese, ’16 and Ali Aboudaya, ’17 and faculty members Christine Fogarty and Andrea McCook.

Director Camilla Carr, is a Multi-award-winning playwright, screenwriter, author, and has written for and/ or directed Academy Award recipient Holly Hunter and nominees Amy Madigan, Brenda Blethyn and Dolly Parton. The cast also includes Morgana Shaw, a professional actress who played Bettie Moss King in the miniseries “True Women.”  In "Will's War", she is playing the same character in a different story. Shaw is also known for the role of Mab on the television show "Salem.”

Also in the cast are Wayne Windle, Will’s grandfather, a real-life defense attorney; cousin Windle Shapiro as Little Virginia; Mary Jane Windle, Will Windle’s mother; and Windle Shapiro, who will be playing the role of her own great-grandmother, Virginia King Bergfeld Woods. Woods, now 103, still remembers her father’s arrest and trial. She will be in attendance for the performance.

“Will’s War” was the third in a set of books that Janice Woods Windle wrote about her family’s deep Texas roots. The other two books, “True Women” and “Hill Country,” were also well-reviewed, and “True Women” became a CBS miniseries in 1997 starting Dana Delany, Annabeth Gish and Angelina Jolie.

“Will’s War” is Will Windle’s first play. In addition to writing the script, he will be playing the role of his ancestor Will Bergfeld. Windle earned his bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from Flagler College in 2016.

The Ringhaver Student Center at Flagler College is located at 50 Sevilla St., St. Augustine. For more information, contact Andrea McCook, Theatre Arts Department chair at 904-819-6401 or

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