Bethany College Theatre Spotlights Wartime Experiences with ‘Returns’ and ‘A Piece of My Heart’

4218ReturnsPieceWEB2.jpgBETHANY, W.Va. - The Bethany College Theatre Department will present two plays in repertory—Joshua Casteel’s “Returns,” an autobiographical journey through Casteel’s experiences as an interrogator in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, and “A Piece of My Heart,” a play by Shirley Lauro that showcases the experiences of women during the Vietnam War. Performances will run April 1 through 9 in Wailes Theatre on the College campus.

“Returns” is scheduled for April 1, 3, 6 and 8 at 8 p.m. and April 5 at 2 p.m. “A Piece of My Heart” will run April 2, 4, 5, 7 and 9 at 8 p.m. Representatives from the Veteran’s Administration will offer question-and-answer sessions following the April 1, 2, 4, 5 and 8 performances. Due to mature themes, these plays are not recommended for children.

“Returns” is based on Casteel’s experiences after his 2004 deployment to Baghdad. The play gives audience members a view into the life of James, a young interrogator with the U.S. Army who returns from the Abu Ghraib prison only to be faced with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Bethany College is among the first theaters to produce this raw and intimate portrayal of the violation of youth.

The cast includes Theatre and English major Patrick McGregor of Westerville, Ohio, as James; Cultural Studies major Gerad Cervenak of Follansbee, W.Va., as Jonathan; Theatre major Zachary Adams of Norton, Ohio, as Mark; Theatre major Joey Albus of Beallsville, Ohio, as Sgt. Patrick; and Visual Arts major Shane Buydasz of Canonsburg, Pa., as Ahmed/Dhahur.

“Returns” will be directed by Theatre major Megan Leigh Valentino as her senior project. Valentino is the daughter of Cherylynn and Lawrence Valentino of Beloit, Ohio.

Theatre major Evan Oslund of Oakmont, Pa., will serve as Assistant Director. Tracie Lynn Duncan, Bethany College Theatre Technical Director, will provide set and costume design. Lighting design will be provided by Technical Theatre major Devon Farris of Midland, Pa. History and English major Rob Christiansen of Seattle, Wa., will oversee sound design. Senior Project Advisor will be Luke Hardt, Director of Theatre and Chair of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts.

2908ReturnsPieceWEB.jpg“A Piece of My Heart” is based on the true stories of six females, military and civilian, from Keith Walker’s book by the same name. The women’s roles encompass a broad range of interactions with the war, both at home and abroad, and include nurses, a military officer and an entertainer. One actor plays the male roles.

Lauro’s play has won numerous awards, including The Barbara Deming Prize for Women Playwrights and The Kittredge Foundation Award. While “A Piece of My Heart” is known for its wide appeal that reaches beyond particular political convictions, it is also deeply relevant as many examine America’s historical and contemporary relationship with war.

The cast of “A Piece of My Heart” includes Technical Theatre major Devon Farris of Midland, Pa., as MaryJo; Physics major Ilia Liskooka of New Castle, Pa., as Martha;Theatre major Megan Oberdoerster of Mentor, Ohio, as Whitney; Psychology major Brenda Lee Valdez of McAllen, Tex., as LeeAnn; and Elementary Education major Johnna Valenti of Avella, Pa., as Sissy. Theatre major Joey Albus of Beallsville, Ohio, will perform all of the male roles.

The play is directed by Luke Hardt, Bethany’s Director of Theatre and Chair of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. Tracie Lynn Duncan, Bethany College Theatre Technical Director, will serve as the Designer. The production crew also includes Theatre major Tina Rykowski of Weirton, W.Va., as Assistant Director;Theatre major Evan Oslund of Oakmont, Pa., as Stage Manager; Theatre and English major Pat McGregor of Westerville, Ohio, as Assistant Stage Manager; Visual Art major Shane Buydasz of Canonsburg, Pa., as Lighting Designer; and Rob Christianson of Marysville, Wash., as Sound Designer.Also on the production crew are Equine Studies major Krystal Daubenspeck of Marysville, Pa.; Social Work major Stephanie Laine of Sanford, Maine;Theatre major Lydia Lavin of Jackson Heights, N.Y.; Psychology major Brittany McAdoo of West Alexander, Pa.;and Visual Art and Psychology major Kirstie Pomilio of Elizabeth, Pa.

Each night of the productions, the lobby will be a collection point for Boatsie’s Boxes: Operation Beat the Heat. Patrons are invited to bring items such as body wash, powdered drink mixes and laundry detergent, deodorant, Tylenol/Advil and sunblock SPF 50. To view a complete list of items needed by the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, visit www.boatsie.com/itemsneeded.html.

Tickets are by donation only, but reservations are strongly encouraged. For reservations and information, please contact the Box Office at (304) 829-7124.