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"A Soldier's Play"

"A Soldier's Play" begins Feb. 15 at West Side Theatre Guild in Gary

Mark Spencer, director of Gary’s West Side Theatre Guild’s “A Soldier’s Play,” can now cross off an item on his directorial to-do list with his staging of the acclaimed drama.

“This is a piece that has long been on my bucket list,” he said. “I made a promise to myself that, before retirement, this is a piece that I wanted to produce.”

Opening Feb. 15 and running through Feb. 24, “Solder’s” tells the story of a group of African American men coping and revealing long-held resentments and perspectives in the wake of a murder at an Army fort in Louisiana in 1944.

Penned by American playwright Charles Fuller, whose credits include fellow celebrated works such as “Zooman and the Sign, “The Brownsville Raid” and “In the Deepest Part of Sleep,” “Soldier’s” made its stage debut in 1981. A year later, it received the Pulitzer Prize for drama.

The play was also adapted for the big screen in 1984, directed by Academy Award winning director Norman Jewison (“In the Heat of the Night,” “Fiddler on the Roof”). Denzel Washington, Robert Townsend and David Alan Grier are among the cast members of the film, which was nominated for Best Picture Oscar and Golden Globe Awards.

“I want people to walk away from the play grateful about the (social) progress that’s been made in our country since the 1940s,” Spencer said. “There are a lot of areas and topics that are discussed in explicit detail that really transfix us back to the period and time where we were a divided nation.

We may have our challenges (today), but I want people to walk away celebrating the progress that’s been made for civil rights and for civility as a whole,” he added.

Spencer’s production of “Soldier’s” is made up of a dozen Region-based area thesps.

“I like the idea of the challenge of getting 12 men on a stage to do a play under one roof at the same time,” he said. “That’s very challenging for me, and it’s extremely gratifying to have this play mounted … we’re seeing the energy leap off the page and we’re very, very excited.”

Next up for West Side Theatre Guild is a production of “The Wiz,”  scheduled to run May 25.

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