A Tribute to Women of War

  • By:  Grace Altman

Don’t miss LTN’s tribute to the women of the Vietnam War.

The Little Theatre of Norfolk embraces feminism, honors women’s history month, and tackles the tragedies of war with their upcoming production, “A Piece of My Heart.” 

Since the time of Greek tragedies, plays have been a way for people to make sense of the horrors of war. Shakespeare also incorporated elements of war in his plays to help audiences understand the inner struggles soldiers faced. Today is no different. Theater offers a vehicle for the community to better understand the impact and repercussions of human conflict. 

The Little Theatre of Norfolk’s upcoming production, “A Piece of My Heart,” portrays the hardships of the Vietnam War. Six women guide us through their lives before, during, and after Vietnam. The play centers around the physical and emotional hardships the women endured during wartime in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. 

Director Kelly Gillian is a veteran herself, which brings her closer to the piece. “I understand a lot of the things that these women went through,” she said. “I was never in a war zone, but the traumas that entail being in the military as a woman…even in the 90s [weren’t] that different, as far as the patriarchy.”

Although the play is set more than 30 years ago, a lot of the themes will resonate with a modern-day audience. 

“You can really see a part of yourself in the different characters,” said assistant director Kathryn Finney. “As a woman, how do we look at these experiences as a thing that happened in the Vietnam War, which was a very long time ago? How do you process what was expected of you then as opposed to now? It’s a very different thing for a modern woman, but the feminist attitude is an undercurrent of our modern life.”

The production is all about women and female empowerment, which is fitting, as it runs during March—Women’s History Month. 

“This show is really about the women. The men are just there because there were men in Vietnam,” said Peter Scheible, who plays all the men in the show.

“It focuses on the women,” he continued. “That’s the main difference. And it’s not just any particular kind of woman, it’s a variety of women. They all have their different struggles and problems that they faced in Vietnam, and the men, of course, had their problems, too. But we’ve all already seen those problems, so being able to see what the women’s struggles were as well, I think, is important.”

The show celebrates female empowerment, although not in a traditional way. Peyton Henderson plays Steele, a black woman who has been in the military longer than the other characters. 

“[Steele] gives the perspective that is not usually considered—that of not just a woman but a black woman, so it adds this almost intersectionality,” Peyton said. “Every time I hear this play I think, wow. We as women are just awesome and underappreciated. There are moments they touch on that in the play, where these women are seeing such horrific things, but they’re not given the recognition or the respect that they deserve. I think this play pays homage to them and gives them the space and time. Women have hurt, too; it’s time that is recognized.” 

Locally, those with military ties will feel especially connected to the show. LTN’s production will feature names of military women in the community on their own Wall of Honor, paying tribute to those who have served.  

“It’s a very empowering piece,” said Sami Topping, who plays Martha. “It really just makes you proud to be an American and proud to be a woman. I think everyone can take something from it. It’s not a piece specifically for women. It’s not a piece specifically for military people. It’s a piece for everyone who’s had to deal with hardships and had to overcome them, and I think it’ll really resonate with everyone regardless.” 

Little Theatre of Norfolk’s production of “A Piece of My Heart” runs March 6-29, 2020. Tickets are available at ltnonline.org.

Grace Altman is a Virginia Beach native who has a love and passion for theater and literature. She enjoys singing in the shower and thrift shopping.  

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