Stories of Service


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The wounds of war aren’t always just the kind you can see. That’s the premise of an original theatrical production that will be performed next weekend at Mid Valley High School.

According to the show’s director, Patricia Powell, the story for the play grew out of the time she spent with her elderly father, Gene Washo.

“I had the pleasure of spending many hours with him as he was recuperating from surgery,” he said. To pass the time, she asked the Dickson City native to share some family history, and the topic of his military service came up.

As he told story after story of those days, Powell said it became clear to her that “the stories of men and women serving our country needed to be told, and many of our soldiers from past and present wars and conflicts needed to know that America has their backs.”

At the same time, Powell’s friend at fellow Mid Valley faculty member Deb Bell, had been posting to Facebook some of her own personal experiences and pictures as her son was deployed in Afghanistan.

“Her reflections and concerns brought to my mind the many families who sacrificed for the cause of freedom,” she said.

Powell began to think she had the makings of a dramatic presentation.

“Although I have published short stories, poems and educational materials, I never wrote a play,” she said. “Since I was a little fearful of not only writing a play but also of bringing it to the stage, I tapped some of my friends for a few brainstorming sessions.”

First, she called Colleen Graff, a fellow English educator and theater buff.

“Colleen told me about her days as an Army wife,” Powell said. “But most importantly, she understood a lot about soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

Next, Powell turned to one of her former students, Michelle O’Malley, who is still active in Mid Valley’s drama club.

“While I am good at seeing the whole concept, Michelle’s special talent is making a scene’s details come alive.”

Powell also invited a current student, Jessica Bonacci to join the effort. Her assignment was to write a scene that would include children in the play.

The outlines for the play, called “War Bonds,” were taking shape.

“One character is strongly based on Michelle’s grandfather, Richard O’Malley, who fought in World War II, and the other is based on my father, who served in the Korean Conflict,” Powell explained.

The main character of the play, Billy, played by senior Dane Hill, suffers from early-stage PTSD. After alienating his family and friends, he visits a veterans’ center where he gets the help he needs.

“War Bonds” will be performed Friday and Saturday, May 24 and 25, at 7 p.m. in the Mid Valley High School auditorium, 52 Underwood Road, Throop. Tickets are $8, and may be purchased at the door.

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