Presenter brings father's war history to life

Patrick Dewane could have written a book telling the extraordinary experiences of his grandfather in World War II, but he decided on a live performance instead.

"This is more fun," Dewane said of " The Accidental Hero ," the multi-media performance he will present Saturday at the Scott Hosier World War II Roundtable meeting in Rochester.

In the performance, Dewane portrays his grandfather and 20 other characters to bring to life a little-known aspect of the war. His grandfather, Lt. Colonel Matt Konop, was the first American officer to arrive in the newly freed city of Domazlice, Czechoslovakia, after the Nazis left near the end of the war. The irony is that Konop grew up in a small Wisconsin town speaking Czech until he learned English at the age of 6. The double irony is that in 1945, many of Konop's Czech relatives still lived in Domazlice.

After the war, Konop rarely mentioned his army experience. Dewane, vice president of advancement for the Minnesota Opera, was as surprised as anyone when he discovered his grandfather's story several years ago.

"When I would tell the story to people, I'd get the response, 'Wow, they should make a movie or something out of that,'" he said. "I've been in the arts all my life, I've brought plenty of other people's stories to the stage."


So Dewane decided to bring his grandfather's life to the stage. His preparations included research in what is now the Czech Republic, where at a museum in Plzen he saw a photograph of his grandfather on liberation day.

To perfect his accent and dialect, Dewane spent hours talking with the last indigenous Czech speaker in his grandfather's hometown.

Included in the presentation is color film shot by Konop, who was equipped with a movie camera, during the war.

"It's not a lecture," Dewane said of his presentation.

So far, Deane has performed "The Accidental Hero" in New York, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. But he'd still love to retrace his grandfather's wartime footsteps on stage. "I'm looking forward to doing it in the Czech Republic at some point," he said.

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