Cedar­town per­form­ers ask for ‘A Piece of My Heart’

The Standard Journal - - LIFESTYLE - By Sean Wil­liams SJ Correspond­ent

Cedar­town High School’s the­ater depart­ment suc­cess­fully shared a piece of their heart with au­di­ence mem­bers dur­ing a pub­lic per­for­mance of Shirley Lauro’s drama “A Piece of My Heart.” The ma­ture play fea­tur­ing the roles and ac­tions of women dur­ing and af­ter the Viet­nam War served as the group’s OneAct play for the 2017 com­pe­ti­tion, and Cedar­town au­di­to­rium and di­rec­tor Chris Reaves of­fered free en­try to any vet­er­ans.

A Piece of My Heart is unique in that the play doesn’t have a main char­ac­ter, but in­stead fo­cuses on 6 very dif­fer­ent women who end up tak­ing up arms and en­rolling in the Viet­nam War as nurses for vary­ing rea­sons. See­ing one of the most con­tro­ver­sial wars in his­tory from the lens of a woman is unique in it­self, but the story also touches on how PTSD and post-war an­i­mos­ity from civil­ians af­fected the lives of re­turn­ing vets.

Lauro’s play fits per­fectly with Cedar­town’s his­tory of per­form­ing heav­ier, more dra­matic plays for One-Act, and 2017 is not the group’s first at­tempt at a war- themed story. One-Act Com­pe­ti­tion pits same re­gion high schools against each other in a day long event to see who can best per­form a play last­ing only one act. Win­ners are de­cided by a panel of three ran­dom judges, and re­gional win­ners ad­vance to the state level where a sin­gle cast is crowned as the win­ner. CHS has won a to­tal of 5 re­gional cham­pi­onships with their per­for­mances of “Help Wanted,” “The Divin­ers,” “Of Wid­ows and Veg­eta­bles,” “A Thou­sand Cranes,” and, “Hush Lit­tle Celia, Don’t Say A Word.”

Cedar­town’s the­ater troupe pre­pared care­fully and stud­ied hard for the roles the ac­tresses would be por­tray­ing. A more se­ri­ous story, the group wanted to do A Piece of My Heart jus­tice by ac­cu­rately por­tray­ing the grim re­al­i­ties of the Viet­nam War.

“We made sure to study the peo­ple, nurses, and ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ences that were in­volved in the Viet­nam War,” Reaves said. “It’s a piece of his­tory that’s worth re­vis­it­ing, and we wanted to do it jus­tice.”

The cast had read plenty about the strug­gles of be­ing a Viet­nam nurse, how sol­diers were treated like crim­i­nals upon re­turn, and the nag­ging tor­ment of PTSD. That knowl­edge seemed to sharpen the group’s per­for­mance.

The orig­i­nal play is 2 hours long, but One-Act per­mits only per­for­mances of 55 min­utes or less, so Reaves had to dras­ti­cally shorten the story while mak­ing sure to not tar­nish the sub­ject mat­ter.

“We made the cuts our­selves,” Reaves said. “We had to list ev­ery cut to the agency in­volved with the script, and changes had to be ap­proved. One of the re­quests was that we kept as much pro­fan­ity in as pos­si­ble be­cause the pro­fan­ity helps to high­light the se­ri­ous­ness of war.”

Along­side mak­ing the play re­al­is­tic via knowl­edge and pro­fan­ity, the cast im­ple­mented real mil­i­tary ap­parel that be­longed to fam­ily mem­bers for re­al­is­tic cos­tumes.

“Many cast mem­bers have mil­i­tary fam­ily and were wear­ing the tags them­selves. Cast­ing re­quired 6 ac­tresses whom I know I could count on to play these char­ac­ters with dig­nity and honor,” Reaves said. “The 6 young women that were cast are bright, hard work­ing, and have gen­er­ous hearts — ex­actly what this play calls for.”

Re­gard­less of whether you see Cedar­town per­form A Piece of My Heart on the com­pe­ti­tion stage or the home stage, pa­trons of the arts can be con­fi­dent know­ing the cast will per­form to the best of their abil­ity.

Con­trib­uted by Gail Con­ner

CHS took first place in re­gion with their One Act per­for­mance of “A Piece of My Heart.”

Cedar­town High’s the­ater depart­ment shares a piece of their hearts with au­di­ence mem­bers dur­ing a pub­lic per­for­mance of Shirley Lauro’s “A Piece of My Heart.”

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