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And some waited forever…

Wren Wertin
Robin Fritz, Judy Gifford, Erika Gifford and Michaela Gifford star in "Waiting for MacArthur," a play by part-time Edward resident P. Paulllette MacDougal.
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Edwards playwright P. Paullette MacDougal studied the realities of war in the South Pacific extensively, and wrote a play dramatizing what she found. “Waiting for MacArthur” will be performed by the Vail Valley Theater Company Nov. 11 and 12.

The four-woman show chronicles an idealistic young Army nurse, Annie Lou, from boot camp to her stay on the island of Corregidor in the South Pacific during World War II. The story is revealed in a series of letters between Annie Lou (Erika Gifford), her best friend Rosalie (Michaela Gifford), her immigrant mother (Judy Gifford) and Margaret (Robin Fritz), her high school English teacher.

“It tells what war was like for a woman in combat,” said Robin.

“Annie Lou’s parents expected her to behave like a lady, and for others to treat her like one,” said Judy.

“There was no food, no water – the men dealt with it, and the women did too,” added Michaela.

Annie Lou joined the the fray for a couple of reasons. Her father wanted to send one of his sons to the war, but none of them were interested in going. So Annie Lou went as her family’s representative. Coming from a sheltered Wisconsin upbringing, she craved a grand adventure. She had no idea what she was getting into; nobody did.

“It’s a real powerful story – meaningful and very important,” said Erika.

“I think it’s something important to remember,” said Michaela. “People forget; that’s why history repeats itself.”

It’s no accident that the play is opening on Veterans’ Day; Director Suzanne Foster planned it that way. She feels it’s extremely important to honor veterans everywhere, especially in light of a war with Iraq looming on the horizon. She knew she wanted to direct the play after she’d heard the first five minutes of it read.

“It’s a woman’s story, so it’s a different perspective on war,” she said. “It doesn’t glorify war, but glorifies the human spirit.”

The conditions on Corregidor were abominable. The island was under daily bombardment, and all non-fighting personnel were crowded into an underground tunnel.

“When it became apparent that the Allies could no longer defend the island, General MacArthur and his family left,” wrote MacDougal in her author’s note. “As he was departing, leaving more than 10,000 American and Allied troops stranded, he made famous these lines, “Keep the flag flying,’ and “I shall return.’ When he returned several years later, all those who served our country on Corregidor, including 100 women nurses, had been killed, starved to death, or taken prisoner.”

During her research, MacDougal interviewed many veterans. The character of Annie Lou is a composite of the memories of many World War II service people. She dedicates the play to:

“The Greatest Generation, those men and women whose sacrifices saved the world for liberty and freedom, including, and especially, the playwright’s mother and father.”

There will be two performances of “Waiting for MacArthur.” Both are at 7 p.m. The productions are free for veterans, $8 for adults and $5 for students. A portion of the proceeds will go to the 10th Mountain Division Memorial. The Nov. 11 performance is at Battle Mountain High School; Nov. 12 it will be performed at Eagle Valley High School. For more information or to reserve tickets call 328-7834.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.


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