By KATIE STEWART
Six women who served in the Vietnam War struggle to make sense of the conflict that changed them and the nation that shunned them after they came home.
That’s the premise of “A Piece of My Heart,” an intense drama that has been called the “most enduring theatrical production that deals with the Vietnam War” by the Vietnam Veterans Association.
The Pima Community College drama department will showcase the play Nov. 13-23 at the West Campus Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre.
The award-winning production, written by Shirley Lauro and directed by Nancy Davis Booth, uses true stories and shared memories to capture the women’s thoughts, feelings and emotions from before, during and after their tour of duty.
In the 1960s, enlisted military women were not supposed to be stationed in a war zone, Booth said. However, 15,000 women served as nurses, intelligence officers, USO entertainers and Red Cross workers in Vietnam.
“‘A Piece of My Heart’ provides the community audience with a moving, appalling, frightening, redemptive and ultimately cathartic experience,” Booth said.
A dialogue with the audience, cast and director will follow every performance.
PCC students play the six lead roles:
• Miriam Groleau – Whitney
• Bev Ihli – Martha
• Michaela Ivey – Leeann
• Casey Norman – Sissy
• Taylor Plecity – Maryjo
• Andrea Sherrill – Steele
Sherrill said she feels privileged to be a part of the production.
“It’s an intense production with a real historical value,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed every aspect of it so far, from getting to know my cast mates to the rehearsals. I know it’s going to be a fantastic show.”
Plecity called her participation both difficult and rewarding.
“It’s really difficult to have to go to such dark places every time we run the show,” she said. “There were women in the battlefield, whether they were entertainers like my character Maryjo, or nurses. Women played a huge role in combat. This play is another reminder of that.”
“A Piece of My Heart” is Ihli’s first acting role.
“I am so glad that I somehow was fortunate enough be a part of this piece,” she said. “I know we all want to do each character and their story justice, especially since they are based on true events and people.”
Ihli also praised the stage crew.
“The tech work that is going into the show is also so very mesmerizing,” she said. “Everyone is working extremely hard to make this production the best it can be for the audience and the vets who lived it.”
Two male actors, Chris Dobson and Cole Potwardowski, portray soldiers.
“At the end of the day, I would say that being able to share such a powerful story with the community and to enlighten and educate others is the most rewarding,” Dobson said.
As part of the production preparation, Booth introduced the cast to female veterans who served during the war.
“Having the opportunity to learn about these women’s stories and being able to meet the women who were there and who saw firsthand what it was like, is pretty awesome as well,” Dobson said.
In light of the nation’s current involvement in conflicts all over the world and the increasing role that women play in combat, Booth said the production is a nod of acknowledgment and affirmation for their sacrifice and caring hearts.
A photographic exhibit will be on display in the Black Box foyer during the run of “A Piece of My Heart.” Jason Stone, a retired PCC staff member and former student, took the photos during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
The exhibit will also include a playback of Stone’s documentary film, “The Shadows of Men.”
The play runs for about two hours, with one intermission. Performance times are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. American Sign Language interpreters will be available on Nov. 20.
Tickets cost $15, with discounts available, and can be purchased online at pima.edu/cfa or at the box office. Box office hours are Tuesday-Friday from noon-5 p.m. and one hour before each performance.
For additional information, call the box office at 206-6986 or email email@example.com.