Words by Aliki Marie Pantas Semones. Images courtesy of Moriah Joy.
In 2017, Moriah Joy was commissioned to create a one act show for her former high school to use as a competition piece for the VA High School League One Act Play Festival. Now, in 2021, she has adapted it into a 90 minute play, For the Honor and Glory, which is available to watch virtually this month. This world premier is presented by Little Theatre of Norfolk, who’s summary from their website reads, “War has become a part of the tapestry of America, affecting daily life in various ways since its inception. However, many of these stories are focused solely on the victor or on epic stories of men making sacrifices for their country. For the Honor and Glory explores the sacrifices women have made while being on the other side of these stories. Inspired by true events. We follow Miranda, an Irish immigrant during the height of Irish gang wars in New York; Ellie, the wife of a Tuskegee airmen; Lana, a Vietnamese warbride; and Tristan, who’s fiancée navigates military discrimination. Watch as their stories come together and show the beauty of how we’re stronger together.”
Since her 30 minute version in 2017, Joy has made several changes for this 2021 version. She even invited ideas from the cast and incorporated them into the script. I was very blessed with the opportunity to interview Joy, as well as some of the actors from the show. Joy told me “most of the characters, except for Brian & Darren, have ties to the military.” Actor Stefan Sharak, playing the role of Darren, “had the idea that he would be a part of the Irish Brigade for the Civil War so that way Miranda’s storyline would tie back into the war as well.” The big question on my mind was what rehearsals were like, given the pandemic and state restrictions. Joy told me that the cast rehearsed virtually for two days, then they were able to meet safely and rehearse in masks in the Little Theatre of Norfolk’s building. The actors stayed 10 ft apart and everyone in the room was masked. They continued to work this way until everyone was vaccinated and they were given permission to move forward. Actor Kendrix Brown, who makes his debut on the LTN stage as both Robert Jr. & Robert Sr, described the rehearsal process as “unlike any other I've been a part of [...], due to Covid restrictions”. He went on to add, “It was especially challenging to create a genuine connection without being able to see the other actors' faces or get within a certain distance. Luckily those restrictions were loosened near the end of rehearsals and we were able to find new depths within our scenes.”
Actor Peter Scheible, playing Bryan, added “10-foot social distancing made it very challenging to block out the scenes and engage with the other actors. We also very rarely had rehearsals where the entire cast was called in and when we did, we had to be particularly careful to maintain social distancing.” Actress Abby Fedorowicz, playing Miranda, described the rehearsal process as “Very creative. We got to workshop a lot of the show and used improv and all our combined creative juices for the scenes!” Actress Danielle Gaines, playing Tristan, said the rehearsal process was “so collaborative, it made it feel like we all were part of the creation process; going over the script, and being able to say, hey, I have the inclination to say this or, I think this is how the character feels here.”
Many of the actors mentioned that this was their first time working with a new script & Joy welcomed suggestions from everyone. Scheible said he “was excited for the opportunity to work under [Joy’s] direction and was not at all disappointed. It's been a wonderful experience.”
The performance was pre-recorded on the stage of Little Theatre of Norfolk. With the restrictions in place because of the pandemic, Joy decided pre-recording was the right decision for this production. Joy said she “really wanted something where we could tell this story, to get it done in a way that still felt honest to theater, and staging it in a way that still felt honest to the integrity of the show.” There ended up being some cool perks that came from pre-recording the performance. One of Joy’s actresses would have been out of town during the run & would obviously have been unable to perform in the show. Another actor is double cast as the father and son, and there are some other artistic reasons that I won’t spoil in this article.
I know some audience members really miss being in a theater and seeing a live performance- So do we! We miss performing for that live audience. Some ways theaters have adapted to this is by doing more outdoor theater, so be sure to check back on Spotlight News so we can share these performances with you! Until we are able to all be indoors together again, Joy said this best: “Theatre is universal. I know a lot of people think of it as one experience, but it's so many different things and people need to understand that and adapt to it. And if it's not your thing, then I get it. But you also need to respect the performers and their time that they're putting in stuff. That's how I feel.”
Please continue to support our arts community as we transition into the restrictions being lifted. You can support by continuing to see their shows in new ways, such as this pre-recorded performance. On that note, I would like to leave you with the words from the actors and Joy on why you should see this show:
Kendrix Brown: “Love, family and patriotism. This story will make you laugh, make you cry and make you think.”
Stefan Sharak: “Because it tells the story of America from a different view point, how it details the hardships and struggles that immigrant women, women of color, and women in the LGBTQ+ community faced throughout almost 3 centuries, and how their stories weave into one another.” Danielle Gaines: “It's an amazing journey into the lives of women we see but don't really take the time to know. It's so important to try to understand what these women go through being left behind especially because we have such a big military presence in the area.”
Peter Scheible: “I think this show captures a very important perspective into the lives and adversity faced by those whose loved ones go off to war. It's a perspective we don't often get to see, but it's a reality for so many people. My castmates are incredibly talented and did a magnificent job bringing this beautiful show to life.” Abby Fedorowicz: “I love how the show centers around 5 strong women and their untold stories. Bringing these ladies’ lives into the spotlight is so rewarding. This show is so empowering [...] and shines a light on stories that would’ve otherwise remained in the shadows.”
Moriah Joy: “I feel like these stories resonate with people on every level. And I, I want that feeling of community and unity to be heard and felt more than anything. Remember, we're more similar than we are different.”
For the Honor and Glory is streaming virtually until July 5th. Go to ShowTix4U to purchase tickets.