By Davis Hill
From Dec. 1 to Dec. 4, the EWU Theatre program remounted their production of Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” Originally performed last March, it follows the experiences of a platoon of soldiers during the Vietnam War.
This production of “The Things They Carried” was chosen as an alternate for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Colorado. Several members of the cast were invited to audition for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship, and the cast received a Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Ensemble Performance.
Members of the cast were excited to have the chance to perform the play again.
“The audience really liked it,” said Chailee Friant, who plays Maryanne. “It’s a narrative play. You get to talk to the audience and bring them into your story.”
riant explained that part of the play’s appeal is that it touches on issues that many people are uncomfortable talking about.
“The audience walks into a funeral,” she said. “From the beginning, you’re kind of torn apart.”
The play was well-received, with standing ovations three out of the four nights. Many from the audience expressed their appreciation for the performance.
“[It was] way above what I was expecting,” said Brady Wickett, who attended the Dec. 4 showing with friends. “I expected it to be overacted and not really a story that touched people in the audience. [But] a lot of people in the audience were feeling the same emotion as the actors.”
Leah Parker, who heard about the play through the Honors Program, agreed.
“The acting and adaptation was done in a way that allowed the audience to really engulf themselves in it,” she said. “I highly recommend it.”
“It was a lot faster paced this time around,” Friant said. “The guys just grew a lot within a whole year. The audience felt like they were right there in the jungle.”
“The Things They Carried” is dedicated to Alan Basham, who teaches in the Department of Counseling, Educational and Developmental Psychology and served as a medical evacuation corpsman with the Marines in Vietnam.
Basham, who describes himself as an “unofficial helper,” spent time coaching the cast, choreographing the troop’s movements, and even creating several mock weapons used in the play.
“I was determined to help them see through my eyes to get information you can’t really get from reading the book or the script,” Basham said. “I helped them understand war and the context of the war, the psychological and spiritual effects on people.”
“There’s some really courageous young people in that cast,” he said. “Some of the cast members are veterans themselves, and for them to dedicate themselves to this, one [or] two years after returning from war? It was simply unbelievable.”
“Watching movies and researching Vietnam, I had so many nightmares that [Sara Goff, EWU assistant professor of theatre] made me stop doing research,” Friant said. “[But] everyone wanted it so bad.”
She paused. “We are trying to tell the story of what the soldiers were [unable] to tell—the story of soldiers’ lives over there.”