Zack Kennedy

Actors, including Zack Kennedy, portraying soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan read aloud from letters sent home to families in the performance "Letters Home" at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow / June 23, 2014)

Much has been written about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but "Letters Home" allows you to hear from the soldiers themselves through the excerpted letters that comprise this Griffin Theatre Company production on Friday, June 27, at 8 p.m., in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.

There is a strong emotional connection between these soldiers stationed in the Middle East and their families back home. That's why this Columbia Festival of the Arts event taps so directly into this year's festival theme, "Bringing It Home."

This theater production was inspired by an Op-Ed article in the New York Times titled "The Things They Wrote"; a subsequent HBO documentary called "Last Letters Home"; and also letters contained in four books by Frank Schaeffer.

Most of the showcased letters were written by soldiers, but there also are some written by their parents. In terms of the theatrical presentation, the letters are read aloud as dramatic monologues.


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If you find yourself paying close attention to what these people have to say, it's certainly because of the sincerity and immediacy of this writing situation.

Also contributing to that dramatic concentration, though, is the fact that this theater production relies on very few props. It's mostly just actors reading the letters aloud.

The presentation is not as visually stark as that description might make it sound, however, because there also are photographic and video images projected behind the actors. It's significant that this imagery was taken from soldiers' blogs and websites, thereby reinforcing the documentary foundation for the whole project.

This play's topical and educational value makes it all the more appropriate that the Griffin Theatre Company has toured it to colleges around the country.

The author of the play, William Massolia, also is the founder and artistic director of the Griffin Theatre Company. His nonprofit theater was established in Chicago in 1988.

It actually produces a range of different types of theater. Recent plays have included the classic drama "Golden Boy" and the contemporary musical comedy "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

Griffin Theatre Company performs "Letters Home" Friday, June 27, at 8 p.m., at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway. in Columbia. Tickets are $25-35, or $20-30 for seniors and students. For ticket info, call 1-800-955-5566 or go to http://www.tickets.com. For Columbia Festival of the Arts info, call 410-715-3044 or go to http://www.columbiafestival.org.