GTCC Theatre performs “A Piece of My Heart

“And each time I tell myself that I, well, I think I’ve had enough, but I’m gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough,” sang Janis Joplin in her 1968 hit, “A Piece of My Heart.”
Joplin’s song perfectly reflects the theme of a recent Guilford Technical Community College theatre production which borrows its title, “A Piece of my Heart,” from Joplin. The play tells the stories of six women who become nurses and served in Vietnam during the war.
The play was performed Sept. 27-30 and will be performed again Oct. 4-7 at 8 p.m. at the GTCC Jamestown campus in the Joseph Koury Fine Arts Center.
“A Piece of My Heart,” by Shirley Lauro, was directed by former Guilford College director Michael Kamtman and featured Guilford senior Maria Walsh-Cole.
Walsh-Cole plays Lee Ann, a young war protestor who becomes a nurse in hopes of being stationed in Hawaii, but ends up in the middle of the conflict.
Other characters are Mary Jo (Mariana Bracone), the peppy lead singer of a band sent to entertain the troops; Sissy (Marion Edgemeyer), a rather conservative and seemingly naive nurse; Whitney (Patricia Adkins), a teacher; and Martha (Stephanie Sands), another nurse who was an army brat. Their leader is Steele (Nailah Malik), who is experienced in wartime situations but has problems getting respect because she is black.
“We really need to think about what these women did and tell their stories,” Walsh-Cole said. “It’s a side of the Vietnam War that was essential, but isn’t really talked about.”
The first act of the play portrays how the women became involved in the Army and then the struggles they faced once in combat. Overwhelming chaos in the hospital units, positive and negative interactions with male soldiers, and race relations are just some of the issues discussed.
The second act deals with the women’s arrival home and having to deal with protestors, post-traumatic stress disorder and trouble finding their niches as civilians again.
“The play is rather intense and kind of depressing, but it has a positive attitude at the end,” said GTCC freshman Marion Edgemeyer (Sissy).
The theme of the play is a timeless one in American history.
“I found the play to be very reflective of events that are happening today with the war in Iraq,” said Guilford senior Davis Green.
“The play gives a face to the people (in Iraq) and addresses the transitions soldiers make when coming home,” Walsh-Cole said. “It is a good production to do now because it shows the varying perspectives of everyone involved in war.”
The storyline becomes confusing when the six main actors shift from their main characters into brief minor roles of mothers, friends and Vietnam natives to elaborate on the situations of the core characters.
While the presence of influential and common music from the period helps to enhance the setting and place it in context, what is intended to be background singing from Mary Jo often overtakes the dialogue and makes the speaking actors hard to hear.
The small theatre and small audiences did not deter the cast from delivering a powerful performance.
“The size of the audience doesn’t matter,” Edgemeyer said, “as long as there is someone there and you can get your message across.”
Despite these minor details, Walsh-Cole and her fellow cast members do an excellent job of giving voice to the usually silent tales of women involved in the Vietnam War in “A Piece of My Heart.