In 2001— before 9/11, Afghanistan and the second Iraq War— the Village Players Theatre presented PVT. WARS, a show revolving around three Vietnam veterans recovering and bonding in an Army hospital.
“Each one of them is definitely fighting their own battles,” said Jake Gordy, former Village Players president, who played Woodruff in the 2001 production. “They each bolster one another. They do everything they can to maintain their friendship and help one another. If you have a male sibling, you will recognize the love that they have and the odd ways they express it to one another.”
PVT. WARS debuted in Toledo before a new generation of soldiers came home from another far off conflict. The show’s themes of heroism and camaraderie deeply resonate. Now, 16 years later, the show is remembered fondly— not just by its audience, but by the cast and crew who put it together.
“I just remember that audiences really identified with it, and they were both challenged by the material, and they were also heartened by it. Because, like I said, there really is a beautiful story about how three guys get together,” Gordy said.
Now, all three members of the 2001 production’s original cast— Gordy, Derek Hansen and John Jennens— will come together for a one-night-only staged reading.
The performance is not only a happy reunion for Gordy, but also acts as his swan song— he recently departed his position as president of the Village Players after seven years and moved to Florida with his husband Chris Jagodzinski.
“We were at a board meeting, and Derek pulled me aside and said, ‘Jake, what would you think about remounting the show before you leave for Florida, as long as all of us are still here?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely. Let’s do it.’ We asked the board for their permission, if we could do it as a fundraiser for the theater, and we ended up taking it one step further— not only are we going to fundraise for the theater, but we’re also going to fundraise for a veterans’ organization.”
Not only will the original three actors be reuniting for the event, but the 2001 production’s original directors, Norb Mills and John Henry, will be in attendance.
“I believe this play is universal in that it centers around servicemen who suffer, as do many veterans in combat situations,” Mills said. “The thing about PVT. WARS is that we learn how the personal lives of the men involved also impact their conditions. The audience is made aware of the complexity of their ‘mental wounds’ and how this affects the lives of many Americans in today’s society.”
Gordy, who has begun rereading the script, will soon be returning to Toledo to begin rehearsals of the production.
“I think that the reverence that we try to treat each of the characters with, being a veteran— I hope that it drives home to the audience the respect that we need to have not only for veterans of previous wars, but the veterans of all the current conflicts, and the struggles that they face. It is our responsibility, as a society, to care for those that have defended our freedom,” Gordy said.
$20. 8pm. Saturday, October 7.
The Village Players Theatre
2740 Upton Ave. | 419-472-6817