A few years ago while on a business trip, I visited the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. for the first time. I’d heard great things about the place and since it was a blisteringly hot day, ducking inside for a few hours seemed like a good idea. After being given my identity and “cover story” and told I’d need to memorize those details as I prepared for my “assignment", I was already hooked. I wandered around, thoroughly captivated by the intriguing and often surprising exhibits and an idea began to take shape.
As Chicago-based musical theatre writers, Steve and I had been actively seeking out a property to dramatize and had continued to dismiss thoughts of film or book adaptations. We were looking for a truly great story, something unique and thrilling that could sustain our passion for the material over time. As luck would have it, a young man in the gift shop helped me find a wonderful book called “Sisterhood of Spies” by Elizabeth P. McIntosh. The book recounted tales of many remarkable women, all operating covertly during WW2. In a small passage I came across the fascinating story of Amy Elizabeth Thorpe (code name: Cynthia), an operative for the Allies whose contributions helped to turn the tide of the war. I knew that we had found our story.
In researching the lives of Betty Thorpe, her British diplomat husband Arthur Pack, William Stephenson (code name: Intrepid) and Charles Brousse, the French Naval attaché she was assigned to seduce, our research took us to the beginnings of the OSS and the Wardman Park Hotel, the former Vichy French Embassy in DC, and to a fabled chateau in the Pyrenées mountains. As we wrote and found the voices of these unsung heroes we fell more in love with these people who had done their part to secure freedom around the globe. What came out of all of this was our musical entitled CODE NAME: CYNTHIA.
This week we’re lucky enough to be working with the terrific students at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, once more shaping and refining Betty’s story. We’re amazed that we continue to be enthralled by events long since past and so grateful to this next generation of talented performers!