'The Veterans Day Project'
Tacoma Little Theatre honors the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day
By Christina Butcher | November 8, 2018
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice was signed in France, ending all fighting on the Western Front of World War I. That day is now commemorated as Armistice Day -- or Veterans Day -- and we've been celebrating it in the United States for 100 years. In the spirit of continuing to honor our national history, support veterans and give civilians insight into the military experience, Tacoma Little Theatre presents The Veterans Day Project this November.
"I want veterans to come to the show and feel heard and understood," said Beau M.K. Prichard, creator and director of The Veterans Day Project. "I want them to know there are other people who understand some of what they've been through, and can comprehend and talk about it. I want them to know their experiences are shared. They're not alone in what they have been through."
The Veterans Day Project tells the stories of American servicemembers' experiences over the last 100 years. Those experiences are told through letters servicemembers sent home to loved ones while away at war. Some of the letters were written by servicemembers or their family members, some are based on historical people, but all have been fictionalized or amalgamized. In total, the play includes the work of six writers and 12 actors.
"All but one narrative in the play is standalone," said Prichard. "I tried to present them as snapshots into particular places and times: a nurse in Vietnam, a servicemember who served as a reconnaissance pilot in World War II, a servicemember who served on a boat in the Gulf (War) in 1991, and a servicemember hunting for WMD (weapon of mass destruction) in 2004."
The Veterans Day Project features actors Scott C. Brow, Kaleb Dillard, Cassie Jo Fastabend, Beth Lazarou, Moses Olsen, Kevin Pitman, Mason Quinn, Helen Roundhill, Corey Spruill, Tom Stewart, Jacob Tice, and Nathaniel Walker. The play will run for a single weekend, Nov. 16-18, and is free for veterans.
"I'm interested in the stories that haven't been told," said Prichard, whose grandfather's story is among those presented in the play. "There's significance in hearing words (aloud) rather than just reading them." Contributors who helped bring the play's stories to life include Chris Davis, John Donoso, Tyler J. Hill, K.E. Jenkins, Alan Prichard and Tito Titus.
"This is the first staging of the finished show," said Prichard. "It's the biggest writing project I've done in a long time." Prichard has been working on The Veterans Day Project for over 10 years now. He held staged readings in 2012 and 2015, and to date, over 30 actors have been involved in its production.
Prichard's inspiration for the play began with an experience he had over a decade ago while visiting Auckland, New Zealand, where he grew up and went to college. He was moved by an exhibit at the National Museum of The Royal New Zealand Navy, in which he read letters sent home by New Zealanders on the warfront during WWI.
"I recorded one of those letters on tape. I don't know why it was so significant to me, personally, but it was," said Prichard. "Years later (in Seattle), I was in the Garden of Remembrance behind Benaroya Hall and was reading quotes set in stone. The quotes were by people who'd fought in World War I ... When I saw that memorial, the idea popped into my head ... everything shook out after that."
Fast forward 10 years and The Veterans Day Project has come to fruition at a highly significant time, both nationally and locally. In addition to marking the 100th commemoration of Veterans Day, this fall also marks the 100th season of theater at Tacoma Little Theatre. Prichard, who lives in West Seattle, chose Tacoma Little Theatre partly because of its proximity to Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).
The Veterans Day Project, 7:30 p.m., Friday & Saturday, Nov. 16-17; 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 18, 210 N. I St., Tacoma, $15 general, free for veterans, 253.272.2281, tacomalittletheatre.com