Listen to Women
Everyday as I look over the script, I am further invested in telling this real story from such a pivotal time in culture and society in the US and across the world. This play reveals so many social constructs that my generation and beyond may never understand, specifically when it relates to a woman's voice in War. I think within the rehearsal process, I faced the struggle of accepting the neutral stance that most women, like Steele, had to have maintain to graduate and function through the Armed Services during the Vietnam War. As a character, Steele is a wonderful person to play and discover with. I think her story is very vital to the plot of the play as she maps the perspective of women in "leadership" within the Armed Services during that time. She held many positions, but the societal, gender, and racial constraints would never allow those positions to really matter. Without giving too much away, Steele's ultimate goal, had she succeeded in getting people to listen and act, could've changed the way we know the history of the Vietnam War. I think it's essential to note how each woman's voice, if listened to or accepted then, could've changed the course of our history and how we as a society look at intersectionality. All the characters depict how the same issues parallel to the ones faced by women in many industries outside of the Armed Services.
Since this play, I have greater interest in speaking more to the women who have served in the Vietnam War with those serving today. There is continuity in the horror and glory of War from a woman's perspective, which I don't find to be discussed a lot. For this reason alone is why people should see Piece of My Heart. It's the voIce of women who are just as affected, important, and committed to the cause presented to them. This should be acknowledged and respected.
A Piece of My Heart runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays May 6-15. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Tickets $15| Advance, $20| Door, $10| Student & FREE to All Veterans
Jyreika Guest (Steele) is thoroughly excited about joining the cast of Piece of My Heart. She boldly made Chicago home performing her one-woman show 'Arn't I Still: Lessons of Her for the Solo Chicago Festival three years ago. She's an active performer in the Chicago area and house ensemble member of Chicago Slam Works where she starred in three of their debut season of original shows, Redlined, Have a Great Summer, and more recently, Incendium. She's featured for several festivals in the Chicagoland area including Ravenswood Art Walk and was a RAW Artist in Spoken Word in Cincinnati, OH. She’s obtained her Master’s in Public History and a BFA in Musical Theatre. Other theater credits include: Strong Women (Woman Two), Rhinoceros (Boss of Cafe/ Fireman), 2009 YES Festival World Premiere of Shock and Awe (Captain Martinez), Once on This Island (Peasant/Storyteller),Children of Eden (Storyteller), Freedom Speaks (Rosetta), and for colored girls (Lady in Blue).
I was immediately intrigued by one word in Leeann’s character description — “Amerasian.”
“Wait… that’s me. That’s actually me!”
Most of the time, I go into auditions hoping to be enough of something — Asian enough, ethnic enough, ethnically ambiguous enough. Actually, I have spent most of my life wishing these things. Growing up I was afraid of being called white-washed or a twinkie (yellow on the outside, white on the inside (kids are so clever with insults!!!)) because I thought it meant I wasn’t enough. And no matter how much time you spend reasoning with yourself that there is no way to be less than your DNA, those insecurities never go away. (PS I did a short lil solo performance about this in college!! So scary!! Nothing worse than being yourself on stage!!)
So when I was offered the role of Leeann, I was ecstatic! Stepping into her shoes and exploring those insecurities in a different time has been so interesting. Leeann is strong, and unafraid, but is pushed passed her limits leading to moments of vulnerability. She’s everything I’m not (nurse, popular, cool), and everything I have wanted to be (cool), while also enduring terrifyingly traumatic experiences.
All six women are left with intense emotional trauma after leaving Vietnam; Leeann is fighting an evolved, more deadly self-hatred that threatens her mental well-being. To me, it sometimes seems like I am so far separated from the Vietnam War. At this time so many people were massacred, and the American youth sent to fight regularly witnessed tragedy. I think my separation from this time is subconsciously for protection, because when I think about all those tragedies happening to people like me, people younger than me, I get so sad and angry.
This is why a play like this is so important to produce now, in 2016. We cannot forget the terrible moments in our history, because we need to learn from them (cheesy!). And by not shying away from what diversity looks like in America today, it makes this far away time a little more tangible.
I hope you come see our show! We have all been working hard for many months to give these stories the integrity and understanding they deserve, and we can’t wait to share it with you (awwwwww)!
Photography by Al Zayed.
A Piece of My Hearts opens May 6th, 8pm. Tickets $15 Advance, $10 Student & Senior, FREE to All Veterans
Zoe Agapinan is a Chicago based actor, writer, and improvisor. This is her second show since moving to Chicago — Yay! She graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2015 with a BA in Theater Arts and a minor in Economics. Her favorite roles while at UCSC include Paula in “Fefu and Her Friends,” Phebe/Adam in “As You Like It,” and Loretta in “The Congressladies.” She currently studies improv and comedy writing at the iO Theater and the Second City. Zoe would like to thank her friends, the Frain family, her lil sister Jasmine for everything ever, and Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble.
A Piece of My Heart: Getting into Character with Erick Rivera
Erick here from CDE’s upcoming production of A Piece of My Heart. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the play, it follows six women through their individual experiences during and after the Vietnam War. Based off of the book by Keith Walker, the play expounds on the lives of real women who served in the Vietnam War; what they saw, what they did, and the unanticipated aftermath that challenged them upon their return home.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, how could a bunch of millennial theatre fanatics who know nothing of war accurately depict such a colossal event in American history? Simple. We did our homework. We read, watch videos, listened to music, and spent months enveloping ourselves in the time and the circumstances. And you can believe me when I say there were times when it felt like we bit off more than we could emotionally chew, and we had 9 mouths chomping! Ok…weird extended metaphor, but you know what I mean. Learning about the Vietnam War got heavy fast, and it didn’t get any easier the further we dug.
I was on the debate team in undergrad. Random, I know, but there’s a point. Debate is simple. Let’s say someone says, “Everyone gets a puppy.” Then the other side says, “No, that’s impractical, plus puppies are gay.” Now there is a position called a critique. A critique says, “It doesn’t matter who wins or loses, there will be no change in the puppy population after the debate, BUT what can change is the fact that one party used a term for a group of people in a derogatory manner, which is dehumanizing, and we should spend the rest of the debate discussing why that is wrong, so at least when the round is over everyone has grown as a person, and real societal progress has been made…which is more important than debating puppies. Sure Erick, but how does that relate to A Piece of My Heart, you ask?
Well. When you get a group of actors who know nothing of war (Jon Snow) and make them research the life styles, habits, experiences, and history behind the characters involved in a war, they gain knowledge and empathy for the veterans they are trying to portray. And when you add an audience (who will also learn and gain empathy from their viewing of the performance) then you have both parties, audience and actors alike, leaving the play not saying, “what a good play” but, “I had no idea these people went through that” and then they go out into the world with a newly found admiration and respect for the people who served our country so well, and gave so much.