Elgin Theatre Company to stage 'A Piece of My Heart'

By Jamie Greco
Daily Herald correspondent
Posted1/31/2018 3:57 PM
  • The cast of Elgin Theatre Company's "A Piece of My Heart" includes, from left, Kiara Wolfe, Marixa Ford, Libby Einterz, Mark Brewer, Elizabeth Dawson, Jamie McCalister and Angel Novie.

    The cast of Elgin Theatre Company's "A Piece of My Heart" includes, from left, Kiara Wolfe, Marixa Ford, Libby Einterz, Mark Brewer, Elizabeth Dawson, Jamie McCalister and Angel Novie. Courtesy of Elgin Theatre Company

"A Piece of My Heart," a story of female Vietnam veterans and their civilian counterparts -- nearly 90 percent being nurses -- will be presented by the Elgin Theatre Company.

Performances are Feb. 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, and 18. All performances will be held at the Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St., eighth floor. Friday and Saturday performances start at 8 p.m. and Sunday performances start at 2 p.m. American Sign Language performances will be offered on Feb. 4, 11 and 17. Tickets are $15-18.

The drama will explore the impact the war had on women, who were subjected to the same horrors as male personnel and were sometimes neglected in the history of the conflict.

The play begins and ends at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 13, 1982, the day the memorial was unveiled. Six women come to leave a token of remembrance as well as ponder their lives and how they were changed by the war.

Author and filmmaker Keith Walker wrote the source book "A Piece of My Heart" based on interviews with 26 women who served.

"The book was so moving and here is (the message) in three words. War. Is. Hell," said director Madeline Franklin of Elgin.

The play was adapted from the book by Shirley Lauro, with six female characters drawn from the 26 Walker initially interviewed. The play follows the characters over a span of 20 years through deployment and repatriation to a country that didn't approve of the war in which they served.

"The women saw everything," Franklin said. "They saw the effects of napalm and Agent Orange. They saw the young men die in their arms. They saw the horrors of war."

The tragedy that occurred around these brave women might have been a deterrent to actors considering joining the cast, according to Franklin.

"The actors had to say yes to a story that would take them into the inner depths and the horrors of war and we really deal with it," she said.

Libby Einterz of Elgin is one of the actors who signed up. Her character Martha O'Neal is an army brat whose journey plays out with ambiguity.

"Her father was an officer and her mother was a nurse in the navy in World War II and she desperately wanted to follow in her mother's footsteps and go to Vietnam and be a heroic navy nurse serving her country, protecting the fighters and doing her duty." Einterz said.

Her gung-ho personality begins to fade in light of the horrors of war, according to Einterz.

"She has a love/hate relationship with armed services when she comes home and has to reconcile what she knows with her idealism," she said.

Mark Brewer of Mount Prospect is the only man in the cast and steps into each vignette playing different characters in each woman's story.

"He plays every man in the country that the women meet in and after Vietnam," Franklin said.

"I play about 23 different characters," said Brewer. "It's been a lot of fun and a real challenge to find that sort of variety and constant change. But, I am more a portion of these cast members than I am a fully developed character."

He also may have learned a little about the inner workings of females during rehearsals. Having no male actors to bond with during downtime, he sat in with the female actors.

"It's been interesting to be in a play with six women and a strong woman director because I've never had that before," Brewer said. "Sometimes they'd be talking about things outside of my experience and I'd be like a fly on the wall. It helps to see women who are vibrant characters."

Other cast members include Elizabeth Dawson of Elgin, Jamie McCalister of Hoffman Estates, Kia Wolfe of West Chicago, and Angel Novie of Wheaton.

Franklin thinks everyone must see "A Piece of My Heart" for the insight it offers.

"It's a powerful tableau of the horrors of war and the emotional impact on these fearless 11,500 women," she said. "The play is a must see, must know, must never forget."

Due to graphic language, the show is intended for mature audiences only.

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