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Flagler College Theatre Arts to perform Vietnam War play ‘Tracers’ from April 7-11

Mar 29, 2021

When Flagler College senior Colton Fenley imagined his Theatre Arts capstone performance a year ago, it didn’t include visions of masks and social distancing. But that is what he is preparing to take the stage under as he, as well as six other Flagler College students and one professional guest artist, prepare for the Vietnam War play “Tracers.” It will run in the Flagler College Lewis Auditorium from April 7 to 11.

“Performing during a worldwide pandemic isn't the most ideal situation,” he said, “but at the end of the day, I am just happy to entertain others. COVID conditions haven't affected my creativity too much because the cast has been able to work together and talk with one another to figure out ways to keep the creativity flowing.”

The play, according to director Britt Corry, is a challenging one to perform. It follows the emotional ups and down of war “grunts,” as the Dramatists Play Service puts it, “as they move from basic training, on to combat in Vietnam, and finally to the shattering realization that their lives will be forever affected by the horrors that they have witnessed – and been a part of.”

Corry said the play was selected because of its timeliness and local relevance. The United States recently commemorated the war’s 50th anniversary. More than 9 million American men and women – more than 6 million living today – served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces during the country’s involvement in Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. The exact local numbers are unknown, but Corry said that there is a large Vietnam veteran population within the College’s theatre audience pool.

“Tracers” was created by veterans in 1980, and includes profanity and the explicit details of grim war. Fenley will be performing the character known as Dinky Dau.

“He's a bit of a weird one,” Fenley said. “He tries to act tougher than he actually is and tries to act like everything is OK, but he is actually scared of this reality that he's living in. Dinky Dau has experienced a lot of trauma during his time at war and is a really good example of what is it like to suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).”

Preparation for a role – one in which Fenley never anticipates experiencing in real life – took extensive research and courageous empathy. He watched Vietnam-era films and tried to adopt the mindset of those whose lives had been upended by the trauma of war.

“I don't think I understood veterans or how much they went through before being involved in this production,” he said. “I have a newfound respect for the people who put their lives on the line for our country. It's not just about putting their physical bodies at risk, but also their mentality. Those who do come back from battle are still severely affected.”

Attendees of Tracers can expect a lively performance of oral histories that illuminate Vietnam veterans’ experience. They can also expect a COVID-safe environment. The College will be adhering to the current COVID protocols for events open to the public. Everyone must purchase or obtain their tickets in advance. Social distancing will be observed. Companion seating will be carefully organized – for two, three, and four seats together. Attendees must live in the same household or be in a relationship with someone in order to be seated together. There will also be a health screening form for the public to complete before entering the auditorium and temperature checks will be enforced. Flagler faculty, students and staff must show their Glagler Health+ app “green screens.” The College alert level is currently at Level 2; if the level progresses to Level 3, the production will no longer be open to the public and tickets will be refunded.

Fenley hopes the public will find comfort in the safety protocols, and be inspired by their performances.

“I and the rest of the cast really just want to do this show justice,” he said. “It would be amazing if some veterans were able to come see it as well. We're keeping in mind that this was their life for a while and we want to honor them.”

The play will be held from April 7-10 at 7:30 p.m., and again on April 11 at 2 p.m. at Lewis Auditorium, located at 14 Granada St. Other student performers include Gabriel Neil Barnert, Ian Doherty, Jay Cook, Ajeve Robinson, Noah Santana-Colbert, and Charles Penszynski, as well as professional guest artist, Phillip Auton. Britt Corry serves as director, set designer, and technical director and is collaborating with students on light, sound and video design.

The play is free for students and employees of the college, $5 for all other students and $15 for general admission. Tickets are available at flagler.universitytickets.com (Limited seating: only 100 tickets per performance). The box office is also open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., from April 5-9. For more information, contact boxoffice@flagler.edu or (904) 826-8600.

Content Warning: Please be advised that Tracers contains racial slurs, profanity and depictions of violence.

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