Original work marks 10th anniversary of America’s First Woman Pilot Killed in Battle
Presbyterian College alumna and Army Captain Kimberly N. Hampton of Easley wrote a letter to her parents, Ann and Dale Hampton, on Feb. 4, 2003. A portion of it read:
“If there is anything I can say to ease your mind … if anything ever happens to me, you can be certain that I am doing the things I love,” she wrote. “… I’m living my dreams for sure, living life on the edge at times and pushing the envelope. …
“So, worry if you must,” she added, “but you can be sure that your only child is living a full, exciting life and is HAPPY!”
Eleven months later in January 2004, six years after graduating from Presbyterian College, Hampton would be killed in Fallujah Iraq when the Kiowa helicopter she was piloting was shot down by enemy fire.
The Presbyterian College Department of Theatre will honor the life of the pilot beginning Saturday, April 5 when it presents “Kimberly’s Flight,” an original work for the stage created by the students in the Documentary and Devised Theatre classes under the direction of PC Professor Miriam Ragland. The Design Process class, under the direction of PC Professor Lesley Preston, created the set and lights.
The production, marking the 10th anniversary of Hampton’s death, is adapted in part from “Kimberly’s Flight: The Story of Captain Kimberly Hampton, America’s First Woman Combat Pilot Killed in Battle” (Casemate Publishers, 2012). Written by Hampton’s mother, Ann Hampton and Greenville journalist Anna Simon, the book tells the story of Kimberly’s exemplary life and her legacy left behind.
The premiere gala is Saturday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Harper Center located on the PC campus. Tickets are $20 and monies raised are earmarked for the Kimberly Hampton Memorial Scholarship Fund at PC.
Other performances are Tuesday, April 8 through Thursday, April 10, at 7:30 p.m., and a matinee on Saturday, April 12 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets, available for $5 each, may be purchased online at www.presby.edu/theatre/theatre-production or by calling the theatre box office at 864-833-8317 Monday through Friday from 1-3 p.m.
Captain Hampton was the first female military pilot in United States history to be shot down and killed as a result of hostile fire. She was also the first female combat casualty in Iraq from South Carolina. While at PC, Kimberly was a leader on the tennis team and the ROTC battalion commander. Her death devastated the PC community and those who knew her.
At the 2012 PC commencement ceremony, Ann and Dale Hampton were granted the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. Ann and Simon had just published their book. Once again, everyone on campus was talking about Kimberly Hampton.
After reading “Kimberly’s Flight,” the professors decided to approach Ann Hampton about creating a play about Kimberly. “Ann was amenable to the idea and graciously gave us permission to proceed, including access to all of Kimberly’s materials,” said Ragland. In conjunction with the performances, an exhibit of Kimberly’s PC mementoes, military items and awards are currently on display in PC’s Harper Center, Thomson Library and the Patrick Center.
Professor Ragland and senior theatre major Taylor Figura, who serves as the play’s stage manager, received a grant from the college to research the military background to the play during the summer. Last fall, the documentary theatre class researched Kimberly’s life and wrote the first draft of the script. Both LTC Brian Donley, the current professor of military science, and Campus Police Director Larry Mulhall, who was the military professor during Kimberly’s time in ROTC, have spoken to the class about life in the military and their memories of Kimberly.
Theatre students participated in various military exercises with PC ROTC cadets to learn more about Kimberly’s PC experiences. This semester, the devised theatre class continued the project and brought the completed play to the stage this month.
The play will focus on two stories; the biographical story of Kimberly’s life, and the inspirational story of the impact of her life on those who knew her. “One of the fascinating aspects of the second story is the number of stories from people who feel Kimberly’s spirit looking over them after her death. It is our hope that Kimberly’s spirit—her joy in what she did, her striving for excellence, and her deep love for her country—will live on in this work,” said Professor Ragland.
Janie Davis of Irmo will lead the audience through the play as narrator. Merritt Byrd of Greenville portrays Kimberly and MaryBeth Schaffner of Mooresville, N.C. was tapped for the role of Ann.
“This play is meaningful because Kimberly is very much our peer and that’s a perspective a lot of people don’t get to experience,” said MaryBeth. “Here, we have a unique perspective to navigate Kimberly’s college world,” she added.
Portraying the troops are Tobi Antigha of Tampla, Fla., Jamie Carlson of Norcross, Ga., Tyler Fagan of Jacksonville, Fla., Devron Glenn of Charleston, Seth Moreland of Conway and Blake Roberts of Cumming, Ga.
Assistant managers are Kelly Cichon and Josh Hines; Laura Bookout of Columbia is the house manager. Light board operator is Chantara Tolbert of Greenwood; sound and video operator is Kelly Cichon of Chapin.
Other students contributing to the play include Matt Turner of Jonesville, Garret Antolik and Justin Antolik, both of Cumming, Ga., Joey Gilkey of Woodstock, Ga., Deneara James of Atlanta, Malik Risher of Brooklyn, N.Y. and Nora Argaiz of Lograno, Spain.
“We propose to bring this play and its message to a wider audience by bringing the production to military installations in Europe following the opening at Presbyterian College,” added Professor Presley.
In addition, the production is entered in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and is eligible for an invitation to the KCACTF regional festival and national recognition.