Play Brings Women Soldiers’ Stories to Life on Stage

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s Department of Theatre will bring to life true stories of women involved in the Vietnam War in its performance of Shirley Lauro’s A Piece of My Heart, 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 4-6 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7.

Based on Keith Walker’s book A Piece of My Heart: Stories of 26 American Women Who Served in Vietnam, a CSU cast will portray the lives of six diverse women and their struggles during and after the war.

“This play deals with several major themes -- desire to serve, sense of duty, disillusionment, the after-effects of war, determination and healing,” said director Rebecca McGraw. “The women in this play begin as idealistic dreamers who want to serve their country and save and heal the young soldiers who are fighting in Vietnam. All too quickly they are exposed to the horrors of war, and they are forever altered by their experiences there.”

McGraw, an adjunct theatre professor for CSU, said issues of gender and race also arise throughout the play. “What is a woman’s place in society, and her place in the military? Is she mother, defender, lover, healer, officer, sex object? She is often pressured to be all things at once to men, and can lose herself in the process,” she said.

Two characters also experience racial prejudice. “Steele (Kizzy Louis) is a special intelligence officer and also a black woman in what was at the time a man’s Army,” said McGraw. “Leeann (Alex Yebra) is half Italian and half Chinese and struggles with the fact that she ‘looks like the enemy,’” she said.

In addition to personal struggles, after-effects like post-traumatic stress disorder, Agent Orange exposure, flashbacks and bouts with rage haunt the women, but “ultimately they heal and find a very deep sense of strength, pride and purpose,” said McGraw.

Because the characters in A Piece of My Heart are based on real women who served in Vietnam and will feature incidents that actually occurred, audiences will enjoy a unique experience. “It is an intimate play,” said McGraw. “The characters speak directly to the audience, and there is very little sense of separation from the action of the play. The characters will be the focal point, so the set is minimalistic. “There are over 25 different locations it must represent including the Vietnam War Memorial,” said McGraw. “Location shifts are implied through light changes.”

The production will be reprised April 19 for a special performance at Fort. Benning’s Kelly Hill Recreation Center. “The theatre department is trying to forge a stronger relationship with Fort Benning and give something back to the troops and their families,” said McGraw. “A Piece of My Heart seems like a logical way to start. The audience will be largely comprised of the families of the 3rd Brigade, but it will be open to the public.”

All things said, McGraw notes that A Piece of My Heart is neither an anti-military or an anti-male play. “It is a pro-peace play,” she said. “It speaks to the strength of a, woman’s sense of conviction. It shines a light on women as unsung heroes — champions of change and peace.”

General admission prices are $15 adults; $13 seniors, children, active military and CSU alumni; and free for CSU faculty and staff (limit two) and students (limit one). For more information, call the theatre box office at 706-507-8444 or go to http://theatre.colstate.edu.