I often use memory and storytelling in my work. Unforgettable: Letters from Korea, my latest play, is based on love letters my parents wrote while my father was an infantry platoon commander in Korea and my mother was a senior at UCONN. While certainly an homage to them and their love, the play is also an exploration of the disconnection between a soldier’s battlefield experience and those who are left behind on the home front.
Last summer we had the honor to perform Unforgettable for a group of Korean War Veterans in D.C. I have to admit, it was intimidating. What do we owe history in our art? Well, when history is sitting in front of you in the audience, you owe them quite a lot! We fretted over the details of the production from dog tags to C-rations, but what really concerned me was getting the story right for them; we wanted the vets to recognize their own stories in the story of these two young people.
“You told it like it was,” was the comment that we got over and over after the show. We realized that, although the landscape and personalities of war change, the disconnection between peace and war – home and the battlefield – continue.
The letters are intimate and detailed; there were discussions on faith, arguments, details about meals and everyday life. My mother wrote, “Let me know what you’re doing… The only way I can share it with you is by your telling me about it – all of it (good and bad).” In response, my father’s letters were sometimes brutally honest, “I have felt pretty sick mentally the last couple of days because one of my good friends here got both legs blown off and died before he got to the hospital.” In working on the script, sometimes I needed to do very little, the source material was so strong. I did create a narrator/daughter character, who helps to orient the audience to the story and the time and connect the young lovers to the older couple they will become.
As a species we are devastated and fascinated by war. I wanted to explore the impact of it on these two very young, and very much in love, people.
We plan to return to D.C. this summer to perform for the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the truce between North and South Korea.