"... directed with precision and intensity by John Drouillard ..."
"... a malarial fever dream of war ..."
"TRACERS is not fun theater. It's critical theater. Don't hide your head in the sand. See it."
- The Daily Breeze
"... a visually stunning ... superbly acted and directed production ..."
"A play like TRACERS needs a strong director, and John Drouillard fills this role to perfection."
"Drouillard packs the stage with action, energy, and movement, yet is equally adept as guiding the smaller, more intimate scenes ..."
"... a production equal to those at the Mark Taper Forum ..."
"... a truly 'you are there' production ..."
"... a flawless cast ..."
"... Julian Colletta makes a particularly strong impression ..."
"Travis Hammer has only one scene ... but he makes it a memorable one."
"A bundle of manic energy, (Sean) Hoagland recalls a young Marlon Brando or Sean Penn."
"... makes the nightmare that was the Vietnam War seem as real as today's headlines from Iraq."
"... TRACERS needs to be seen by our nation's future leaders."
- StageScene LA
This production of TRACERS, conceived by JOHN DIFUSCO and written by the original cast, vincent caristi, richard chaves, john difusco, eric e. emerson, rick GAlLAVAN, merlin marston, and harry stephens with sheldon lettich, was presented by james A. blackman, III at the hermosa beach playhouse, may 30-june 8, 2008, produced under special arrangement with DRAMATISTS PLAY SERVICE.
It was directed by John Drouillard; sET DESIGN BY CHRISTOPHER BEYRIES; costumes by KAREN CORNEJO; lighting by MICHAEL TUShaus; sound by erik bleur & kevin goold; properties by debra box; production consultant was john difusco; associate producers were CHRISTOPHER BEYRIES and STEPHANIE COLTRIN; production stage manager was gary breitbach.
The cast was as follows:
little john • nick cimiluca
professor • julian colletta
doc • travis hammer
dinky dau • sean hoagland
scooter • matthew koehler
baby san • jeremy ordaz
habu • sean ryal
sgt. williams • michael yavnieli
A composite or collage of interrelated scenes, the play follows the lives of a group of "grunts" 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. Dealing with the grim realities of the battlefield—free-fire zones, trip wires, drugs, body bags, rat infested bunkers and the ever-present stench of death—the men become increasingly isolated from the "outside world" and from a society that finds honor in such mindless violence and destruction. Ultimately the play, through its gut-wrenching verisimilitude, becomes a moving and eloquent plea for sanity and forbearance, as it assails our minds and hearts with the grim message of what can happen when conscience is overruled by expedience, and clear reason by a warped sense of national purpose. - from Dramatists Play Service
BEHIND THE SCENES
I had neither been thinking about nor had been anticipating a return to Tracers, so it was both an honor and a surprise when I got the call from my old friend Christopher Beyries and his partner Stephanie Coltrin over at James Blackman’s outfit which handled both the Redondo Performing Arts Center and the Hermosa Beach Playhouse at the time. They had some space at the end of the upcoming season, right between Memorial Day and the middle of June, they were eager to mount a production of Tracers in the slot, and would I come over and direct it. Of course I accepted, for reasons not the least of which was because it would be the first time I’ve had the opportunity to direct this during actual wartime, as we were dug deeply into both Iraq and Afghanistan at the time.
There were three immediate challenges to the production, one of which being we had about a two-week window to rehearse the show, once we got the cast in place. The second was that the production, typically done in 99-seaters and otherwise smaller theaters, was to go up in the big 400-seat Hermosa Beach Playhouse, a potential challenge to the intense intimacy that I feel is crucial to the show. Lastly, although there is a vibrant theatrical community in the beaches area with a large veteran population, the audience for the particular season of which we’d be a part was mostly made up of an aging subscribership much more accustomed to the other fare in the season at the time, shows like Steel Magnolias and The Nerd, and I wasn’t sure how or if Tracers would be accepted by them.
In any case, when it came time, we assembled a stellar cast for what turned out to be a monumental production of this important work. The rehearsals were difficult and the pressure on everyone was high, but the incredible technical staff met all of our hard work 100% and we created a deep, meaningful, immersive experience for one near-capacity audience to the next, despite the size of the crowd, the house, etc. Tracers creator John DiFusco came to advise again and to teach the now legendary “Ghost Dance” to this cast and we were also joined at a rehearsal and for the opening night performance and subsequent panel discussion by the iconic Ron Kovic of Born on the Fourth of July fame, who came and shared his amazing life, legacy, and important thoughts about the current state of veterans affairs as a new GI Bill was being debated in Congress in the face of countless veterans alive, wounded, or dead arriving stateside daily at that point from our heavy conflicts in the Middle East.
The response from audiences was magnificent and moving, the production receiving standing ovations every night from the first preview on and I couldn’t have felt more humbled by it all. And, any fears I’d had of the aging subscribers can basically be summed up by one darling little lady of about 95, who sat up front for the show, raving afterward — “This is the best thing I’ve seen in ten years!” God bless her, as well as the rest of the remarkable cast, crew, and audiences who answered the clarion call that spring.