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BWW Review: FORT HUACHUCA at the Zephyr Theatre

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FORT HUACHUCA by Ailema Sousa takes us through the daily lives of five African-American women, nurses, who wait to be called to active duty during World War II.

BWW Review: FORT HUACHUCA at the Zephyr Theatre

FORT HUACHUCA by Ailema Sousa takes us through the daily lives of five African-American women, nurses, who wait to be called to active duty during World War II. Every one of them has a passion to serve a country that doesn't even consider them equal. Yet, it is their collective desire to do something great for America.

Doing so, could also raise up their communities' racial identity status and provide recognition for them, as a matter of pride, as intelligent, equally capable, strong, black women. Indeed, as a fact, the actual pioneers who were stationed there at that time did contribute an important chapter to America's history.

On May 15, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an act that formed the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), later changed to the Women's Army Corps (WAC). In this corps, 180 black women of the 32nd and 33rd WAAC companies assumed their duties at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. (STAFF, 2007)

Denied membership in the American Red Cross during the war, they were reluctantly accepted into the Army, gaining a post at the fort's station hospital. Although only allowed to serve "negro" soldiers while there, they were eventually shipped out to Liberia, the Tuskegee Air Field in Alabama, the 168th hospital in Germany where they cared for white patients, the China-India-Burma theater of operations, and the Southwest Pacific, where they were stationed at a 250-bed hospital in New Guinea. Those who remained at Fort Huachuca were sent to prisoner-of-war camps in California and Arizona.

Sousa's writing of FORT HUACHUCA leads us through the absolutely mundane and amplifies a situation where nothing much happens to or for these women by design. Passed over, day after day, year after year, they are given no orders to ship out. They live on a daily diet of frustration, depression, insecurity, disappointment, loss, and racism. All they can do is wait, and wait and wait.

Of course, in between the waiting, life nevertheless happens - friendships, love affairs, promotions, demotions. But it's altogether demoralizing just sitting in the same room listening to them talk about it patiently without any ability to act.

And there is where this play somewhat falls down. The cultural specificity is potent in this drama. But instead of going deep, the story itself skates quite a bit around the periphery of these women's lives without really bringing home the prescience of them being there in the first place or how very deeply they are affected in their environment. And unfortunately, as part of the SheLATheater Festival's online offerings, the production values are almost non-existent. Although, they are not difficult to overcome, a bit more set design in the black box of the Zephyr Theatre, would have substantially added to the dramatic effect of the accordion of quick-change scenes.

Sousa has an awesome story here. One that is critical to tell. It illuminates for Black women as well as for the rest of us, never educated in the complete history of how many culturally diverse people committed themselves to a cause they believed to be their own, but whose contributions were hardly recognized.

FORT HUACHUCA by Ailema Sousa at least begins to open the conversation.


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