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 One-Act 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.
Cast and Crew
Here's who is representing Cedartown High School at this year's One-Act:
Gabby Woodward as Martha.
Emily Mcdonald as Maryjo.
Caroline Gammage as Sissy.
Cam Lorys as Whitney.
Alexis Ayers as LeeAnn.
Asia Turner as Steele.
Drake Benefield as “Hank.”
Colton Jones, Isiah Beck, and Benefield will be performing as soldiers and various male roles.