Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Presents “A Piece of My Heart”

Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Presents “A Piece of My Heart”

A Piece of My Heart promo image for CDE

Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble’s mission is to challenge, engage and inspire audiences through innovative, multidisciplinary storytelling. The aim is to explore important social issues in an artistic setting. 

Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble has been in existence 15 years. Ellyzabeth Adler founded it 2001 to bring together artists that wanted to inspire positive change in the world through performance. 

Adler lives on the northwest side and is involved in efforts to jumpstart cultural development in the area.

A Piece of My Heart, the 1991 play by Shirley Lauro, follows six U.S. women’s journeys before, during, and after the Vietnam war—five nurses and a singer who is booked to entertain the troops. The New York Times: “There have been a number of plays dealing with Viet Nam, but none with the direct, emotional impact of Ms. Lauro’s work.” The Vietnam Veterans Association: “The most enduring play on Vietnam in the nation.”

Victoria Alvarez-Chacon

When I went to see a rehearsal, a sense of passion for this play was evident. The director, Victoria Alvarez-Chacon, said, “We did it in college, and I fell in love with it.” When asked what appealed to her, she said,  “I love the whole script.” She has been wanting to direct it.

She isn’t old enough to remember the Vietnam war, but she has been doing research and sees many similarities with the war in Iraq. People went out and didn’t come back, or they came back but weren’t the same people.

Victoria played Steele in her college production. The script describes Steele as “Black. Extremely strong, military bearing. Very intelligent, outgoing, great sense of humor. A pragmatist. Southern.”

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Taken by Al Zayed

Taken by Al Zayed

Now Jyreika Guest plays Steele. She too talked about her love for A Piece of My Heart. “I always wanted to be in this play.” She wants to help tell the story of this period in history in a tangible way through women’s stories. Her experience with this production has been “amazing. Everyone’s doing their homework and coming to it respectfully.”

Victoria arranged chairs to represent the audience and went and got the props, which are very simple, including duffel bags, some clothing, and “we have three claves!” These are small cylindrical wooden sticks, popular in Asian countries as percussion instruments.

She gave an impromptu lesson on how to walk with a cane.

The play has dance moments but does not have as much dance as most CDE pieces; it’s not a movement show. They have a choreographer who comes in to rehearse the cast in the dances. They have done “the USO dance” and will be doing “the waltz.”

The CDE’s executive director wants the staging to be intimate, so they are setting up the seating in an alcove of their usual performance space, in what Victoria calls “extreme thrust,” so the audience will almost be part of the action.

In case you were wondering, yes, there are men in the play. Two male actors play all of the men’s roles.

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May 6 – 15, 2016
Fridays & Saturdays, 8 pm
Sundays, 7 pm

The Auditorium at Ebenezer Lutheran Church
1650 W. Foster Avenue

$15 | Advance
$20 | Door
$10 | College Student and Senior
FREE | MIddle and High School Students
FREE to all veterans

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