Vietnam war nurses topic of Kennedy School production [UPDATED]Published 11:05am Wednesday, May 8, 2013 Updated 7:06pm Wednesday, May 8, 2013
A story about several women representative of those who served during the Vietnam War will be portrayed by a cast of high school students in the play, “A Piece of My Heart” by Shirley Lauro.
The public is generally very familiar with the Vietnam Memorial and the effort and dedication required to make it a reality.
A lesser-known story is the effort and dedication it took for the women who served in Vietnam to get their tribute.
“We try to give the student actors a variety of experiences,” Director Lowell Carpenter said. “We can’t always do musicals and comedies. We have a really strong group of seniors and I wanted to give them something challenging.”
The Vietnam War story has been told in seemingly countless novels and movies. Not true for the Vietnam War story of the approximately 8,000 women who served primarily as nurses. Fifty of them gave their lives in service to their country with eight of their names on the Wall, but few novels or movies tell their story.
To help the students prepare for talking on the serious roles depicted in the play, Carpenter asked former U.S. Navy Nurse Donna Hendel to share her story. She served in Guam during the Vietnam War.
Area residents will have the chance to see this moving tribute. Fergus Falls Kennedy Secondary School students will perform this play at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 9 and Saturday, May 11, at A Center for the Arts’ Fergus Theater in downtown Fergus Falls
The play tells the story of six women — three nurses, a Red Cross Doughnut Dolly, an Army Intelligence Officer, and a performer who was recruited by a shyster promoter. The play spans the period of time the women made their decision to serve through their intense and sometimes traumatic experiences during the war to their re-entry to life after the war.
From chaotic efforts to keep up with an endless influx of severely wounded soldiers to dealing with the local Vietnamese wounded to spending their free time, the play’s first act focuses on the women’s diverse experiences during the war.
The second act serves to portray how difficult it was for these women to adjust to life after the war. From PTSD symptoms to the effects of exposure to Agent Orange, the play covers the wide array of experiences of these women moving on with their lives.
“Understanding some of the medical stuff has been hard,” Carpenter said. “It’s a representational play so it’s more about emotions. But I think it is a really good play and we do it well. People who come to see it will understand the attempt at reality. I’m pretty confident the audience will react well.”
Using a representational set, the play flows seamlessly from scene to scene. Each actor plays a specific character while also filling other roles as mothers, daughters, drill instructors and various other characters. The play is intense, frank, and deals with many adult situations. It is not appropriate for young audiences.
Kennedy Secondary School seniors Abby Kiefer, Morgan Fylling, Brooke Wallington, and Ben Haugmo and juniors Danielle Crowe, Cassandra Eerdmanns, Allison Godel and Connor Murphy comprise the cast.
The play is directed by Lowell Carpenter with technical assistance from Andrew Millard.
Tickets are available at the door. Adults are $6 and students $4.