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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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Spotlight Players present “American Soldiers”


On Jan. 16, the Spotlight Players debuted their first show of the decade, “American Soldiers” underneath the dazzling lights of the Black Box Theatre. Directed by Katie O’Donnell ‘20, the show had an impressive run in the first week of the semester, making it hard to believe winter break was in session a mere five days earlier.

The horror of war is not the only trauma Army veteran Angela (Lizza Banquer ‘20) experiences upon her return to Long Island. Freshly suspect to the array of traditional-American values, from patriotism to organized religion, Angela grapples with feeling deceived by her family and country, and wonders what could have been had she not enlisted. In an attempt to distance herself from the complicated emotions of her homecoming, Angela arranges to start a new life with her ex-boyfriend (Justin Halpern ‘23) and sister (Sam Peacock ‘23) in Colorado, despite her father’s desperate attempts to maintain a family that Angela can no longer bear to be a part of.

“American Soldiers” sheds light on the homecoming aspect of war— a part of the reality of being a veteran that, according to O’Donnell, does not get as much attention as it should. As a military child, the director was enthusiastic to blend a major aspect of her identity with the theatrics of her creative vision.

“I felt like it was a story that hadn’t been told yet at Loyola,” said O’Donnell. “I just felt with my personal connection, I would be able to tell the story well and help guide people into not making it some sort of caricature or propaganda piece.”

O’Donnell was successful in crafting an authentic, thought-provoking performance, carried out by the well-rehearsed cast and crew. Their preparation was evident, not only in the technical aspects of their performance but also in their ability to discern and portray the deeper themes of the show, such as political agenda, religion, and patriotism. Stage manager Joseph Doyle ‘21 commented on the importance of exploring these concepts, especially at Loyola.

“We tend to do shows here that have hints of that [religion] because it’s such a big part of the campus culture. We go to a Jesuit institution and that’s a big part of our campus climate— that’s made very clear,” said Doyle. “I think it’s just interesting to see how those values overlap in productions like this where, you know, we’re asked to question things that maybe our campus climate isn’t always encouraging us to question.”

Cast member Bobby Dykeman ‘23 carries similar sentiments, hoping to captivate audiences and leave them with a deeper insight into the realities of war than they had when they entered the Black Box Theatre.

“I hope people realize that when they do see this show, it’s not just another dramatic production that you’re going to for the purpose of enjoyment. There’s real-life themes and people really do get affected by these things on an everyday basis, so it’s something to keep in mind,” said Dykeman.

Many audience members reacted in a way that affirmed Dykeman’s hopes for the play, like Maddie Chelak ‘23, a member of Loyola’s theatre program, but a spectator for this specific production. 

“I was expecting a show about patriotism and military families, but I didn’t expect it to be as profound and intimate as it was,” said Chelak. “It opened my eyes to a different side of the story that I never knew existed or got to see.”

While “American Soldiers” has come to a close, Loyola’s Theatre Department now prepares for February’s show, “Kid Simple: A Radio Play in the Flesh” and the university’s biennial musical, “Mamma Mia!” set to open in mid-April. 

Feature Image: Courtesy of Jay Mendez ’20.

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Spotlight Players present “American Soldiers”