Wednesday, March 07, 2007
What Else Happened At Walter Reed?
The current "Walter Reed" scandal has spurred me to post about what happened at the Walter Reed Annex, about a mile north of DC, during WWII. Wounded military made up the patient list back then, rounded out with a population of soldiers being treated in the psych ward. Also in the psych ward were soldiers waiting to be dishonorably discharged for being gay.
I grew up about a mile away from the Annex, and it wasn't until my late 30's that I heard about this. I saw a PBS documentary - locally produced - about the Annex. A former nurse was interviewed, and I remember her words:
"They used to help us on our rounds, giving out medicine, that kind of thing. They were being discharged, and there was nothing wrong with them."
That quote stayed with me for a long time.
I ended up writing a play about it, set in the Annex - "Dearboy's War." It received an awesome premiere production in Los Angeles a few years back. Chad Allen starred (pictured, with Dave Fofi), along with my cousin. Also in the large, incredibly talented cast was Bruce Solomon, the guy who gets murdered in the first ten minutes of "Foul Play."
I've tried to get it produced again, but the backers stayed away in droves. I ran out of ideas for plays after "Dearboy's War," so I've turned to screenplays, which are a whole lot tougher to get produced. My dream would be to have it done at the Annex itself...
My gut feeling for writing the play - the overriding urge that propelled the words and characters? I thought of those guys in 1942, yanked out of their units, forced to trade their uniforms and status for hospital outfits, trying to keep their hopes up, and no resources to help them out. Not much different from the stories these days coming from the Walter Reed hospital just a few miles away.