THEATRE SCHOOL@NORTH COAST REP PRESENTS A PIECE OF MY HEART
SOLANA BEACH - When the high school-age actors step on the North Coast Repertory stage to tell the stories of six women who served in the Vietnam War in A PIECE OF MY HEART, the audience will likely be filled with many who know little of the harrowing history of the women who served in Vietnam and one who lived it – and inspired the play.
Highly decorated Army vet Doris “Lucki” Allen, who inspired the character “Steele” in Shirley Lauro’s 1991 play, will be on hand Thursday May 19 and Friday May 20 for talk-backs after the performances. Allen, who volunteered for Vietnam service in the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) at age 40 and retired 30 years later after a distinguished career in military intelligence with the rank of CW3, has called the character of Intelligence Office Steele a true portrayal of her three tours in Vietnam and PIECE OF MY HEART “a masterpiece.”
Lauro’s play, which is suitable middle schoolers and up, follows Steele and five other women through their enlistment, tour of duty and return home to a not always so grateful nation. It’s based on Keith Walker’s oral history of 26 women who served, including nurses, Red Cross workers and WACs.
“This story is so important to remember because often the women who served were not considered vets – they were written off,” said director Siobhan Sullivan. “With all that is happening around the globe today and especially with the 22 women now approved to serve in combat leadership roles, I think it is important to remember those who initially paved the way.”
“This show is definitely a labor of love for me. I was in a professional production of the show in 1995 and it changed my life,” said Sullivan, who also directed and acted in PIECE OF MY HEART at Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego in 2005. “That was the first time I realized how powerful a tool theatre was in bringing social awareness and responsibility to a community.”
To ensure authenticity and help her teen-age actors understand the complex material, Sullivan brought in former military nurse Susan Farese to teach the cast about nursing, her overseas experience in Korea, and the intensity of the female Vietnam veteran experience. (Adding to the authenticity, Sullivan added that, “Our WAC and Navy Nurse uniforms are actually from the early to mid-‘60s.”)
Farese was moved by the experience of teaching the young actors about nursing and A PIECE OF MY HEART. “I definitely feel this play is important for all generations... to teach us, remind us, celebrate and/or convey history and the fact that females were not regarded well – appreciated, valued, etc. – in Vietnam or afterward, and that they also suffer from PTSD, drug and alcohol issues,” she said. “They endured early losses, provided nursing care to patients with tragic, horrific medical injuries, and experienced death at such young ages.”
The timing the production is apt, running on Armed Forces Day May 21 and a week before Memorial Day. The audience is asked to bring a small care package of personal hygiene items to donate to a shelter for homeless vets. A performer playing guitar and singing Vietnam-era songs in the café will accept donations to help homeless vets, as well.
A PIECE OF MY HEART opens May 19. Performances are 5PM on Mat 19, 7PM on May 20, and 2PM and 6PM on May 21 and May 22. North Coast Repertory Theater is located at 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D, Solana Beach, CA 92075. All tickets are $16.00 for adults, and $12 for children 17 and under. To puchase tickets, call 858-481-1055 or go to http://
Micah Fong, MaryJo - Ruth Ann Burgess, Steele - Amara Young, and The Men/Actor-Mentor - Connor Sullivan. Chris Payne and Theo Zelkind are Assistant Stage managing and running sound and lights (and understudying the men). Lauren Allvord and Sydney Gerlach are Assistant Directing/Dramaturg and understudying the women. Debby Goyette is our costumer. Light and Sound design by Ryan Ford.
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