Wellesley Repertory Theatre Presents Shirley Lauro’s “A Piece of My Heart,” and Marks Longtime Director Nora Hussey’s Last Production

June 13, 2018
Members of the Wellesley Repertory Theatre during a performance of A Piece of My Heart
Credit:
Nile Scott Studios

Three events that took place in 1968 would leave the United States forever changed: North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive; Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.; and Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles.

Fifty years later, the Wellesley Repertory Theatre commemorates that turbulent year with performances of A Piece of My Heart by Shirley Lauro, which tells the true stories of six courageous women sent to Vietnam to entertain the troops and their struggle to make sense of a war that irrevocably changed them.

A Piece of My Heart is notable in that it puts the often-unsung American women who served in Vietnam at the forefront. It’s a story that needs to be told, says Nora Hussey, director of Wellesley College Theatre, and the founder of Wellesley Repertory Theatre. “Our stories here at Wellesley Repertory Theatre have crossed oceans, political and personal unrest, and a vast array of human experiences,” she says. “These are stories taken verbatim, from real women.”    

A Piece of My Heart marks Hussey’s last show at Wellesley. After 28 years at the college, she will step down as director. Her first production with the Wellesley Repertory Theatre was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Several members of that production attended A Piece of My Heart over the 2018 reunion weekend for a chance to say goodbye.

“I am inordinately proud of all that has transpired since the first production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” says Hussey. “I am also deeply, and with a full heart, grateful to all the brave and intrepid artists who brought our tales to life on stage and off.”   

Founded in 1998, the original mission of the Wellesley Repertory Theatre was to provide an artistic home for Wellesley College alumnae as well as to integrate them into Boston’s professional theatre scene. This idea continues 20 years later: A majority of the cast members of A Piece of My Heart are Wellesley alumnae, including Caitlin Graham ’05, Victoria George ’05, Marge Dunn ’13, Ariela Nazar-Rosen ’16, and current Davis scholar Sarah Lord ’20.

Marta Rainer ’98, who began as a visiting lecturer at Wellesley in 2008 and became a permanent lecturer in 2016, will take over as theatre director. Since 2013, Rainer has directed a show every season. “This is Nora’s company, her mission statement. For her to make space for me in the house she built was incredibly generous,” says Rainer.

Hussey’s decision to stage A Piece of My Heart is significant: One of the first productions Rainer saw as a student at Wellesley was A Piece of My Heart, directed by Hussey. “I still remember that production. It was very impactful for me, especially as a first year,” Rainer says. “The diversity and breadth of sensitivity—it had weight.”

Rainer wants the Wellesley Repertory Theatre to remain a bridge between up-and-coming theatre members and seasoned professionals. In the Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre, current students and recent alumnae are treated as professionals and can interact with faculty in a different capacity. “A generational space,” Rainer calls it.

A Piece of My Heart runs through June 24 at the Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7 pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm. For tickets, call 781-283-2000 or order online.