A pair of three-step stairs are positioned on stage. Six women face different directions. A voice shouts, “Commence fire!” accompanied by a gunshot and a strobe light.
The Communication Arts department staged its performance of “A Piece of My Heart,” based on the book by Shirley Lauro on Nov. 16, 17 and 18 in DPAC.
The play told the story of six American women who volunteered in the Vietnam War. The characters include three Army nurses, one Army intelligence agent, one Red Cross nurse and one United Service Organization (USO) performer. However, as one character told her story, the other five women acted in different roles.
The play was set in the women’s memories. All six stayed on stage for the duration of the play.
The play also had 18 male characters, all of whom were played by freshman Sam Wayson. These men were all American soldiers.
In the first act, the women introduced themselves as they traveled to Vietnam.
Martha, played by senior Emma Quinn, was an Army brat. For her, it was set in stone that she would volunteer in the Army. She entered the Army as a nurse. Due to rumors and what other nurses have said, Martha imagined war to be “glamorous.”
Maryjo, played by junior Marielle Sciore, is part of a country group called The Sugarcanes, who were hired to travel to Vietnam and play for the troops. Maryjo explained in the introduction that she imagines her war tour being surrounded by attractive men.
“It’s like a John Wayne movie,” she said.
Throughout the play, Sciore sung songs in between dialogue. The songs were from the 1970s and included “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” “This Old Man” and “Piece of My Heart.”
Sissy, played by sophomore Maddison Nannery, was also a nurse who claimed she would “save the world.”
Whitney, played by sophomore Kathryn Chamberlain, joined the Red Cross as a nurse. She believed “Vietnam [would] be my year of service.”
Leeann, played by senior Tiffany Santiago, was inspired by former President Kennedy, who said, “ask what you cando for your country.”
The audience learned through Leeann that women were not drafted, but had to volunteer.
Steele, played by senior Monét Johnson, was an Army intelligence officer.
The women traveled to Vietnam and quickly realized that war was not as glamorous as advertised. The nurses were taken to an over-crowded clinic, which was understaffed.
One of the most pivotal scenes was when there was an explosion and the clinic was thrown into absolute chaos – people screamed and Sciore took on the role of an announcer – repeating, “Multiple injuries, all nurses report. Code red.”
The nurses quickly discovered they weren’t qualified to handle multiple patients. Wayson acted as a severely injured man who begged for Sissy to stay with him, but as she left to get more supplies, the man died.
The chaos stopped as he flatlined. Sissy looked devastated as she discovered her patient died. While mourning, one of the other nurses yelled at her, saying there is no time to mourn when other injured men need help.
The first act also tackled different romantic interactions between the nurses and soldiers, which were short-lived when the soldiers were relocated.
All the women go through separate plot lines, yet remain connected. The six women seemed to be at a low point near the end of the first act.
Vietnam was not what they imagined it to be.
The second act tackled post-war life and how women were not treated as veterans because they never participated in combat. There was also never an official list of women who went to Vietnam.
The women joined a support group and it was clear each character had a form of PTSD. Maryjo revealed she was raped and was never paid for her USO performances. Leeann burned her blood-stained uniform. Steele struggled with the news sugarcoating war casualties. Whitney, who was once anti-war, was harassed by protestors and sought comfort in alcohol.
During group therapy, Leeann was overcome with anger and suicidal thoughts and flipped a bench. Martha held her as she sobbed.
The play ended where it began, with the women in the same spots. The side of the stairs was then revealed to be the Vietnam Memorial.
Leeann was approached by a veteran who remembered her. They hug as Maryjo sang “America the Beautiful” and left the guitar against the wall – signifying the end of the play, which received a standing ovation.
Gina Iacoviello, a junior, thought the play “was touching. Sad, yet happy. I was moved by each story.”
Garrett Lein, a sophomore, said, “I had to come for a class requirement. I loved the way it was staged – it looked so natural.”
Director and theater production professor Sarah Cole said, “It’s really an ensemble – no one person is the star. They work together. … I’m glad to see them rising to the occasion.”
According to Cole, after one of the performances, a representative from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), region one, spoke with Cole about nominating students for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship, two alternates and one Design, Tech and Management (DTM) nominee. The nominees and Cole will travel to the regional KCACTF festival in Connecticut in January.
Marielle Sciore and Tiffany Santiago are the scholarship nominees. Emma Quinn and Maddison Nannery are the alternates and Nada Shaaban is the DTM nominee.
Sciore said, “It was a very rewarding experience. It is something that I will carry with me for a long time. … Being nominated is a great honor. It’s such a wonderful opportunity.”
Santiago said, “I think we have all grown so much through this process and all have bonded in a very special way, which I think came through on stage. … I get to do what I love with people I love and that’s all I could ever ask for. I aim to make not only Dr. Cole proud, but to make myself proud.”