Glyn O’Malley, the brave and principled playwright whose play about a Palestinian suicide attacker, Paradise, was savaged by CAIR, just sent me this message:
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
I was taught to never “bury the lead,” so I won’t. This is a letter asking you for money. Now, please allow me to tell you why.
This last June I was privileged to be Playwright-In-Residence at Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee under the auspices of APSU President Sherry Hoppe, the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, and Director of the Center of the Creative Arts, Dr. Jim Diehr, the Chair of the Department of Communication and Theatre, Dr. Mike Gotcher, the Theatre Coordinator in the Center of the Creative Arts, and a faculty member in the Department of Communication and Theatre, Dr. Sara Gotcher.
In creating “The 101st Project,” Dr. Sara Gotcher and I initiated a highly unusual, collaborative project that could only be possible in a city like Clarksville which adjoins the home of The 101st “Screaming Eagles” Airborne Division, United States Army. After daily sessions of interviews with soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division of all ranks who went to Iraq and made it back home safely, I wrote “A Heartbeat To Baghdad.” It did nothing to alter my personal feelings about the inevitable pain, horror, and contradictions of war, but it did about the integrity, self-sacrifice, extraordinary consciousness, and often very real heroism of the large cross section of American soldiers who shared pieces of their “souls” with me.
Inspired by their first hand accounts in Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as those of some their wives, widows, and families back home, the play journeys into the human world those of us not in the military rarely ever get to see, and one that is certainly underreported by the media. It was an extraordinary, moving experience for me as a playwright, and from what I have gathered, all who were involved. Prior to leaving, I mounted a Staged Reading of the first draft of the play to “shake it down” in front of an audience, and to begin to fund “The Sgt. Ariel Rico Memorial Scholarship” at APSU for the child of a slain, or disabled member of The 101st Airborne Division. While memorializing the husband of the first widow of the 101st to reach out to me, Jessica Rico, the Scholarship is intended to honor all the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division in harm’s way. With the help of Dr. Sara Gotcher and the University, it is now a reality. It just needs to grow. All monies from ticket sales to the Staged Reading went to begin to plant the first seeds for this Scholarship. I’ve designated that 5% of my Author’s Royalty in perpetuity will assist it.
It’s been my pleasure to be invited back to APSU by President Hoppe, Dean Diehr, Dr. Mike Gotcher, Theatre Department Chair, Leni Dyer, and Dr. Sara Gotcher this Sept/Oct. to mount a full production of the play that will premiere at APSU, go on to The Tennessee College Theatre Conference, and — hopefully — The American College Theatre Festival. I have cleared the deck of some other commitments in order to do so, as I want the play to be as useful as possible to APSU, and the Scholarship. Apart from the standard fee for the Rights to the Play, I am waiving all royalties so that “The Sgt. Ariel Rico Memorial Scholarship” will continue to grow from direct ticket sales in these venues.
Given that I am already having talks with legit theatres, and commercial producers here in NYC, and elsewhere about productions of the play, my fingers are crossed that in addition to your help, “A Heartbeat To Baghdad” will have a life substantial enough to establish a stable fifty-thousand dollar core, that will keep the Scholarship funded.
I am writing all of you because regardless of who we elect in November, the men and women of The 101st Airborne Division will continue be on the point of the sword as they were in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Regardless of who we elect, or how we personally feel about the politics of any war, they will continue to stand ready. Sons and daughters of slain or disabled soldiers will need the help and support that an education in a Major of their choice that an excellent University like APSU can provide via this Scholarship.
I ask you to join me in making this a reality with whatever your heart and wallet can provide. Checks should be made out to “The Sgt. Ariel Rico Memorial Scholarship” and sent to:
Mr. Roy Gregory
Executive Director of University Advancement
Austin Peay State University
P.O. Box 4417
Clarksville, TN 37044
Needless to say, all contributions are tax-deductible, and APSU will provide you with a letter acknowledging your gift — no matter its size — that will honor the men and women of the 101st Airborne Division, and will change the life of a child.
PS: Should you know of others who might be interested in helping “The Sergeant Ariel Rico Memorial Scholarship” at APSU, you have my permission to circulate this request. Thank you!