, creator of "Tracers," is chief consultant and advisor for the current production at The Hermosa Beach Playhouse
.' (photo by Alysa Brennan)
Why present a play in 2008 that was written 28 years ago about a war that was fought in the 1960s and '70s?
Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities (CLOSBC) opens "Tracers" Friday (preview tonight) at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse
The story follows the lives of eight Vietnam War era soldiers from boot camp to the front line.
To understand the original intent of the work, how it came to be, and the play's significance in today's world, one need only talk to the creator of the project: John DiFusco
feels the stories told by the "grunts" in "Tracers" and the problems faced by Vietnam vets relate directly to situations facing today's soldiers serving in Iraq.
And what they must overcome when they arrive back home.
"There are so many dichotomies when it comes to war," said DiFusco
"We've got a character in the play who was brought up Catholic and was always taught 'Thou shalt not kill' - but he
gets over there and he's
told 'but it's okay to kill those guys.' And the death lives with you for the rest of your life.
Whatever your upbringing, it never goes away."
The idea of the play began when DiFusco
enlisted at age 18.
was first stationed in Texas for 18 months before being sent to Vietnam.
After his tour, he was stationed in California and upon discharge started college on the GI Bill, attending Riverside College, CSULB and CSUDH.
"I really didn't know that such a thing as a theater major existed," he
I acted in seven or eight shows, dabbled in some directing and writing with a few different groups that were creating plays through the actors, using improvisational methods and that sort of thing," said DiFusco
determined the group had assembled enough material to put it before an audience, he
went to the Odyssey Theater and was given a performance date: midnight, July 4, 1980.
Writing credit for the play - both then and now - was given to DiFusco, his six original actor/veterans and writer Sheldon Lettich.
They gave us a standing ovation, so I thought we must have something," said DiFusco
The company returned to what DiFusco calls "the lab," worked three more months on the script, then returned to the Odyssey
for a run that lasted almost a year.
The show's success resulted in DiFusco
getting calls from producers across the country.
Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago was among the most persistent.
"But I had this thing that I didn't want it done unless it was performed by veterans.
What you saw at the first production was a combination of the play and you knew they (cast) were there," said DiFusco
"There was a cathartic, confessional event going on."
eventually yielded and Steppenwolf produced the play.
"I went there and worked with them as a writer and changed a few things along the way.
It became very successful for them and they joined us in becoming part of the growing veterans' movement."
New York was the next theater hub desiring "Tracers," but once again DiFusco
was reluctant, holding fast that veterans must be in the cast.
"I also had two of my original guys do it and it was a hit," said DiFusco
Now, with the war in Iraq, DiFusco
believes the time is again right for "Tracers."
"For me, the show is my statement for peace," he