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.