“The Well House” is one of the best books I have read. It was written by two friends, Mark Van Voorhis and Ed Kugler. A perfect summary on the front cover states the book is “a Hoosier love story of war, peace, hope, and forever.” I received permission from the authors to adapt it to a play, and a great cast will present it for a second year at WILLow LeaVes in the evening on Thursday, November 14th and Friday, November 15th. (Please call 812-546-0640 soon for reservations.)

I got to know Mark when he was around several years ago promoting the book because he selected Hope as the hometown for one of the main characters, Clayton Riggs. Like Mark, I think Hope would make a wonderful setting for a movie crew and hope a play might be a stepping stone to make that dream become true.

Clayton goes from Hope (Hauser) High School to Indiana University in 1966. While at The Well House, he meets Maggie O'Reilly from Chicago. Clayton and Maggie develop a strong friendship. Clayton then joins the Marines and goes to the Vietnam War while Maggie ends up writing for the Chicago Tribune, often about the Vietnam War, under the pen name Midge Madigan.

Mark was enrolled in the IU's ROTC program while Ed joined the Marines immediately after high school and went to Vietnam. It was forty years afterward that they would pull their ideas together for a novel. They felt the first attempt was too long and later reworked it to 255 pages. It was still quite challenging to condense the great substance of this fictional novel to a ninety-five minute play.

Within the play, you will just get a hint of the battles as well as the twelve letters in the book from Maggie to Clayton which are superbly written. (They were done in collaboration with Kathleen Connors, an archivist, historian, writer, and artist.) Their special friendship transcends their differences about the war. And, there is the one letter from Clayton, the letter you wonder whether or not it will ever reach the hands of the intended receiver, Maggie. Clayton though made a wise choice of giving the letter to the one fellow Marine he knew who would carry out the mission to the very end, Moto.

Director Pete Law pulls from his many theatrical experiences to incorporate several wonderful techniques while technical manager, Ben Cleland, and his assistants, Ken/Michelle Seim, masterfully add pictures, sound, and lights. Cast members are Pete Law, Pastor Andy Kilps, Avery Tallent, Abby Calender, Jessica Brown, Daniel Ott, Daniel Wiehe, Ben Miller, J. P. Mayer, Kaylie Fougerousse, Lisa Long, A.C. Reeves, and Larry Wheeler. During dinner, Sally Webster and her sister, Pam, will provide music, and Sally will perform original songs during play transition points. I have a short narrator part and collaborated with Avery Tallent, Hope's rising songwriter/performer, in writing a song for the play. Elizabeth Sexton, Hauser Visual Arts Teacher, with her husband, Jeremy, and her students, Raley Clark, Tristan Watkins, Carly Archer, Shelby Fugate, Brooke Hopkins, Leah Joyce, Kayla Poff, Melanie Taylor, Alex Woodson-Johnson, and Courtney Nicholas, designed a great backdrop of the Well House.

When my wife, Lisa, and I visited Washington D.C. on our honeymoon, I was emotionally drawn to the Vietnam War Memorial, the hands on names, tears, notes, flowers, and … Many of us know someone who has served or who is now serving our country. It is my sincere hope this play will pay tribute to those men and women, and it will be a reminder to each of us of the many life changes related to war.

We hope you will be able to attend. Books, DVDs, and posters will be available. Author Mark Van Voorhis plans on attending all the way from Utah once again. He will be at the Hope Library Annex on Friday, November 15th from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. to discuss, take comments, and answer questions.