Reflections on "Everything In Between" - Writer Rebecca Stahl and Director John DiFusco

In honor of Veteran’s Day, EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN premieres at the Hollywood American Legion Post 43 Liberty Theater. This Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument Building at 2035 N. Highland Avenue has been host over the years to the greatest of Hollywood icons, including Clark Gable, Rudolph Valentino, and Charlie Chaplin. Opened on July 4, 1929, the legendary building combines a memorial and a clubhouse.

Author Rebecca Stahl and Director John DiFusco from "Everything In Between" - Photo by Ed Krieger

Veterans have long found a home here, a place to share and remember. On Veteran’s Day 2016, their thoughts, dreams, and fears will come together in EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN, a moving tale about veterans returning home from the wars, battle-scarred but hopeful.

John DiFusco - Photo by Ed Krieger

A veteran himself, director John DiFusco received the U.S. Air Force Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service in Vietnam. Best known for his part in conceiving and directing the landmark Vietnam play “Tracers,” which won recognition as one of “The Ten Best of 85/86” in its Public Theater New York premiere, John has toured nationally and internationally. In Los Angeles, he directed numerous plays, including “Hair,” “Ali,” and “Avenue X.” 

Rebecca Stahl - Photo by Ed Krieger

A pediatrician and writer, Dr. Rebecca Stahl has family members who have served in the military. Her father was in the Navy, and her brother was in the Marines. Her uncle served during Vietnam. These experiences have changed them. For years, Rebecca has hoped to share her insights on that phenomenon with others.

Producer (and Veteran) Karl Risinger, Rebecca Stahl, and John DiFusco - Photo by Ed Krieger

Playwright Rebecca Stahl and director John DiFusco have together created the unfolding story of state-side veterans and the life changes which they face. On 10/31/2016, John and Rebecca were interviewed and shared their views on what led them to work on this project – and what they hope that this play will accomplish.

DO YOU HAVE A MILITARY BACKGROUND? HOW DOES THAT EFFECT YOUR VIEWS ON LIFE?

DIFUSCO: Being a Vietnam vet has had a huge effect on my work. I joined the Air Force right out of high school and served from 1966 to 1969. I was inspired by the stories I heard from my uncles about World War II, and I knew that the military could provide an education. I was trained as Security Police and spent one year – November 1967 to November 1968 – in Vietnam. It changed my views on almost everything.

When my tour was over, I was sent to March Air Force Base in Riverside, where I attended Riverside Community College. Afterwards, I went to Cal State for my B.A. before coming to LA and joining the Odyssey Theatre. In 1982, “Tracers” was done by the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. I did some re-writes, and Gary Sinese directed.  The play coincided with a sort of revolution of Vietnam vets. PTSD was named for us…I learned that in my workshop.

“Tracers” taught me how to use an open theater, one that wasn’t conventional.  I wanted to do the show in New York; but I wanted to cast it with all veterans, so I partnered with Tom Bird and Vetco there. Tom introduced me to Joe Papp, and we opened “Tracers” at the Public Theater with a cast of all Vietnam vets. It ran for six months with numerous accolades before touring the world for ten years.

STAHL: I come from a large family. As I mentioned before, my father was in the Navy; and my brother was in the Marines. I have a number of friends who were in the military too. I always wanted to write, and I felt that this was a story that hasn’t been told – how vets had to look out for each other, just how traumatic being in war could be after the Vets return home. I never realized how interesting these stories could be for the average person. I wanted to bring to the foreground the vet’s day-to-day life, how they try to blend in after facing such traumatic experiences. How important having the support of your family is – and how a big part of your family are the other vets around you.

J. Kenneth Campbell, Campbell De Silva, and Caron Strong in "Everything In Between" - Photo by Ed Krieger

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT?

DIFUSCO: I was going to act in EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN, and the director got another job. They asked me to direct. I wasn’t sure, and I said that I wanted to meet Rebecca first. After I met her, I decided that we could dance together. Of course, I couldn’t resist the idea. Even though now the vets are from Afghanistan and Iraq instead of Vietnam, they still have the same problems when they come home – things like hallucinations and flashbacks. EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN has vets from wars as far back as Korea and Vietnam and Desert Storm – right up to the present. Each vet is carrying his own nightmare and not fully dealing with it. It’s about vets mentoring vets. I loved the idea of producing the play at the Hollywood American Legion Post.  It’s really fitting.

STAHL: I wanted people to appreciate what vets go through, so I wrote the play. I especially love the Vietnam vet character. He’s chivalrous without being broken – but he doesn’t censor what he says. He can be serious or sarcastic or funny. I wanted people to see that people in general experience tragic things in their lives and that we all face challenges. I want to give people hope that life moves on. I also enjoy working with John. He’s cooperative, kind, and encouraging. He definitely leads in our dance.

Rachel Boller, Tania Verafield, and Campbell De Silva in "Everything In Between" - Photo by Ed Krieger

WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE AWAY WITH THEM WHEN THEY LEAVE THE PLAY?

DIFUSCO: I hope that they take away a sense of caring and a new awareness. Especially with younger vets, there are 22 suicides in a day. In Iraq, they were being sent to war by men who weren’t ever in a war. Those men don’t understand that there are problems out there. People are too quiet about that.  Also, I want the audience to see the bonding, the camaraderie that comes from being in the military. In spite of their cynicism, vets bond with other veterans. And, of course, I want the audience to be entertained. The play should be enjoyable. That’s very important.

STAHL: I want people to see that, no matter what has happened to you, there is hope for a better tomorrow.

DO YOU HAVE ANY FUTURE PROJECTS IN THE WORKS?

DIFUSCO: I stop writing when I’m directing. Otherwise, I’m always writing – poems, stories, plays. I write, and I perform. That’s how I express myself. Recently, I moved back to Riverside. There’s an arts community in Riverside, and I want to become active. I guess that acting, writing, and directing are my future goals in the works.

STAHL: I have a couple of plays I’m working on. One is a dramedy based on a Midwestern family; I’m originally from Wisconsin. Another play is medically based. I also have a medical TV pilot about unexplained supernatural events in a hospital.

EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN opens at 8 p.m. on November 11, 2016 (Veteran’s Day) and runs until December 4, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays (no performances on 11/25/16). Hollywood American Legion Post 43 is located at 2035 N. Highland Avenue, Hollywood, CA. Tickets are $25 (military and veterans $15). Free parking is onsite. For information and reservations, go online.

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