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Theatre / A Piece of My Heart

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Agent Orange Disease is just a BLAST!

"Because you are a Red Cross girl! THE All-American Girl to every service man you meet!"

A 2006 play by Shirley Lauro to remind us that The Vietnam War was just as horrific for the women involved.

The two-act play follows six women (four nurses, a Red Cross volunteer, and an intelligence officer) before, during, and after the war. Said jumble of characters includes Sissy, a rather naive but sweet girl from Pennsylvania; Whitney, a seemingly prim and proper Vassar graduate with a secret; Martha, an army brat who discovers Vietnam might be more than she bargained for; Steele, an African-American woman who despite being the most capable of the lot seems to always get treated as the Cassandra; Maryjo, a country-rock singer and professional ditz who goes over to entertain the troops; and Leeann, the half-Chinese, half-Italian who just wanted to go to Hawaii, but instead gets routinely mistaken for Vietnamese.


Provides Examples Of:

  • The Alcoholic: Whitney.
  • Almost Dead Guy: The dying soldiers, sort of.
  • Black and Nerdy: Steele, somewhat, as she is arguably the most intelligent out of all the characters.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Quite often, in the script.
    LEEANN: Regardless of color, skin, or race.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Leeann's quite a fan of this one during her Act II mental breakdown:
    LEEANN: No! DON'T YOU TOUCH ME! You don't know what this is like for me!
  • Double Entendre: Leeann's first diary entry. It means exactly what you think it means.
    LEEANN: Hank is ringing my chimes!
  • Draft Dodging: Seen as perfectly justified by a lot of civilians:
    MAN: I mean, they didn't have to go in the first place, right? Million easy ways to avoid the draft.
    • ...and impossibly annoying to the soldiers:
    G.I.: Dear Santa! I want a draft-dodging, anti-war demonstrator in my stocking please!
  • During the War: And how.
  • Freak Out: Every character, one by one, starting midway through Act II. That's what you get when your psyche's been slowly, painfully eroded by war experience.
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  • Girl Next Door: Sissy.
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: Miss "Maryjo Kincaid from Beaumont, Texas."
  • Guy of the Week: Postwar Whitney has quite a few. Bruce, Steve, Richard (married), Pete, her "women friends"...
  • "Join the Army," They Said: Why Whitney joins. She sees a Red Cross form on the placement board and decides Vietnam sounds like a pretty good idea. Because they speak FRENCH.
  • The Medic: The nurses.
  • Mildly Military: Subverted. The nurses go through hell and have to follow strict orders. This isn't M*A*S*H.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: What Maryjo seems to think (at least for a while) about her unfortunate encounter with some grunts in Nha Trang. Later subverted when she does call it rape.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: Not sure if it qualifies as a war crime, but Leeann's attempted strangling of the young VC member is definitely an example of "no black and white morality here, folks."
  • The One Guy: Originally, all male characters (of which there were MANY!) were played by a single male actor, but some productions split the role up to two or more guys.
  • Orchestral Bombing: Weird version, because this takes place after the war, and it's all in their heads. At one point, the women collectively go insane with war imagery, and about five trillion layered tracks (cannons, choppers...carolers) start playing in the background.
  • Overranked Soldier: Justified, though. Nurses (and a lot of the servicemen) got ridiculous promotions straight away so somebody would be in charge.
  • Pensieve Flashback
  • Recruiters Always Lie: See The Theme Park Version below.
  • Reunion Kiss: The finale.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Steele, on occasion.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Generally, whenever the script gets tired of mass casualties for the nurses, it breaks up the warfare with a bit of this.
  • The '60s: And how!
  • Stalker with a Crush: Postwar Maryjo follows Clint cross-country from Colorado to Vermont after he breaks up with her. They then live together for six more years.
  • The Theme Park Version: The Army recruiters convince Leeann and Sissy with a) tons of fancy equipment, b) gorgeous hospitals, and c) the promise that they'd have to volunteer for Vietnam––otherwise, they could work in somewhere like Germany or Hawaii if they so pleased. Riiiiiiiiiiight.
  • Title Drop: Done by Martha, quite dramatically, towards the end of Act I.
  • Token Minority: Both Steele and Leeann. Though the play was based off a book of the same name chronicling the real life experiences of women who served in Vietnam, their specific inclusion in the play (which mashed together the experiences of many of the women in the book) falls under this trope.


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