Writing with a passion

Three writers have joined forces to create a theater experience with their stories on how war affects soldiers and their families.

Angelique Gross, a student at Los Angeles Valley College and the main producer, came up with the idea for a night of one-act plays. She wrote "Wake" about a year ago and it centers on a family dealing with the loss of a son who died in Iraq, she said.

Gross' brother just returned from a tour of duty with the army in Iraq. She also has several family members who have served in Afganistan and Iraq, she said.

She believes the war is important issue and it needs more focus, the Van Nuys resident said.

"With everything going on in America—the poor economy, people losing their jobs, the health care crisis, people have stopped thinking about the war," she said. "These are important issues, of course, but in July alone Afghanistan has had the most casualites per month since the war began—66 troops. In June, there were 60 casualties."

Gross wanted to create a night of theater with other writers with scripts centering on the themes about war and family, she said. She contacted writer friends and placed an ad on Craig's List in May. One of the respondents was Max Reynolds of Burbank.

Reynolds, 17, who graduated in May from Burroughs, said he wrote the story the next day in school.

"I wrote the script, e-mailed it in and she loved it," Reynolds said, referring to Gross.

His script, "The Music of Mumbai", is about a family in Afghanistan. A terriorist group is trying to recruit the son as a suicide bomber.

"What I was trying to convey with this piece is that not everyone from Afghanistan is a terrorist and wants to kill Americans," he said. "Not everyone hates America over there."

The production is giving him a chance to pursue his dream to become a writer, he said. He never thought two months out of high school he would have a script in a professional production, he said.

"But I'm also helping to produce it, helping direct it and starring in it," he said. "It just adds to my resume."

He's been organizing rehearsals for his one-act play, working with the costume designer and serving as stage manager, he said. He gained experience for producing a show, he said, while at Burroughs where he was in the Power House group of Show Choir.

One of the things he learned in choir was to take notes and he applied the same technique with his script, he said. He was flexible taking suggestions from the cast and director, he added.

Family members wanted to help him, but he said he wanted to do it alone.

"The work has made me feel good knowing I can be an independent worker," he said.

Reynolds is getting himself out there early in his career, said Brendan Jennings, vocal music director at Burroughs.

"Once they graduate from high school, the important thing is knowing how to start getting the work for a career," Jennings said. "The ones who get out and do it have the most success. They have the training to make a start but it's scary. Max has gone forward with a lot of courage… it's about putting yourself out there. He's clearly has done that and good things are happening."

Kristie Ashwell of La Crescenta, a student majoring in English at USC, has written "The Afternoon Tea," about a British Army wife whose husband has been killed in Iraq.

She has written the play based on her own experiences with war. Her husband is serving in Iraq and will return home in October.

"The play is a collection of my experiences and friends—Army wives— some have lost their husbands," she said. "I wanted to make it as true to my experiences as possible."

Ashwell, a student teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, has dealt with the separation with help from her supportive family and focusing on the positive, she said.

Her husband has served 10 months so far in Iraq, and she's used her writing as a way to cope, she said.

"I find writing is so therapeutic," she said. "It helps me express myself and my emotions."

Gross' pieces "Wake" and a second piece "Sleep," are in the collection. She secured the theater, found the writers and hired the directors, she said as well as sat in on the casting and has been overseeing the rehearsals.

An intern at a law office, Gross doesn't believe she will follow a career in theater, but plans to continue to write because, it's her passion, she said.

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What: "Pieces of War" four one-acts that show how war affects soldiers and their families

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday until Aug. 21

Where: Avery Schreiber Theatre, 11050 Mangolia Blvd., North Hollywood

Tickets: $15

Contact: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/120616

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