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The Northerner

‘Heart’ an emotional account of war

Susan Neltner

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Department of Theatre and Dance

With our world in the midst of a war, it’s hard to understand what our soldiers are feeling when they are away from home.

But with the fifth play in the Northern Kentucky University’s Theatre and Dance Department, audiences have a chance to experience the raw emotions that surface during and after combat.

“A Piece of My Heart” is a story of several women who struggle to survive in Vietnam.

The play is based on a book written by Keith Walker.

Playwright Shirley Lauro took Walker’s book, which is about 26 women who were in Vietnam, and transferred it into “A Piece of My Heart.”

The six women in the play are in Vietnam for various reasons: one to play in a band, one to serve as a head nurse and one as a strategist

Another serves in the Red Cross, one is a hippie-turned-nurse, and one believes that being a nurse and helping others will be her niche in life.

In his note to the audience, director Michael King said when the department began the play, they did everything possible to make the play as accurate as it could be.

Under his direction, the seven cast members accomplished this difficult task.

Upon walking into the Black Box Theatre, one immediately enters another world. One that, thanks to the set design, can make the audience feel as if they were leaving Highland Heights for Vietnam.

Once seated, the audience is then drawn into the experiences of each of the women. The Black Box Theatre was the perfect place to hold the play, because it is so intimate and in-your-face that it only aids in the storytelling.

Even though the stage is enclosed, the transition from scene to scene was done with a subtle smoothness.

One minute the character would be outside, and the next they would act like they were ducking through a door, while the music and lightning changed. This made it appear as if the character had just entered a psychedelic get-together.

Just like working with a surrounded stage might have been difficult, working with a script that was full of soliloquies must have posed a challenge.

But King put a nice twist on this aspect of the play.

In one scene, instead of having the woman talk to the audience about her family or friends and their reactions to her coming departure, King made the other actors on stage act like the family members and mime the words while the character spoke.

That stage direction made it easy to pay attention and was more than beneficial in the telling of this amazing story.

Another benefit the play had was that it called for only seven cast members.

Because of this, no actor stood out from the rest.

Each of them equally portrayed their characters with a passion that truly exemplified the personalities of the character they had become on stage.

Just as the women who worked in Vietnam gave a piece of their heart to every person they took care of, so too did the actors give a piece of their heart to their characters.

King said he wanted to have this play be as accurate as possible.

By the end of the play, the audience can honestly say that, under King’s direction, the cast did exactly that.

“A Piece of My Heart” is a great way to learn about Vietnam and the strength of every man and woman who lived through it.

The play runs through Sunday, April 4 in the Black Box Theatre on the NKU campus.

Tickets for students are $6 and $9 for faculty and staff.

Call the box office at (859) 572-5464 or send an e-mail to boxoffice@nku.edu for tickets.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
‘Heart’ an emotional account of war