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Vietnam War
Tracers, by 7 veterans
Vietnam Conflict/War
1959-1975 (dates of American involvement)
Vietnam’s history of resisting colonizers: China,
France, Japan.
Cold war conflict: 1954 temporary partition
pending elections; North was socialist, South a
republic. Human rights abuses both sides.
US perceived communist threat everywhere post
WWII.
1964: Gulf of Tonkin. Attacks on US
recognizance ships leads to resolution allowing
US military action, not called “war.”
War continued
1964-68 War escalates under LBJ
Minimal info policy to press; gov’t loses credibility
Brutality of conflict, guerilla warfare, new chemical
weapons (Napalm)
1969-73 Slow pull out; Nixon’s “peace with
honor”
Pullout of troops, but failed to supply money and
other needed aid, as agreed in Paris Peace Accord
April 1975: N overruns S Vietnam
Casualties: US 57.5K; S Vietnam: 240K; N
Vietnam: over 250 K
Hair!
1968, USA
Pacifist, anarchist, and counterculture; depicts
youth protesting the war … among other things
Vietnam as a waste of human life, on both sides
Improvisation in performance
Loose structure as concert, with story elements
of love affairs, drug use, paternity, draft
dodging and war protest.
Rock and roll -- first musical to use it. Hits: Age
of Aquarius, Let the Sunshine In
Concept musical -- based not on plot but
concept of hippie tribe taking over theatre
Miss Saigon
US’s final departure of military in 1975, with
flashbacks to earlier times
US military and Vietnamese civilian love affair.
Prostitution of women for US military; hope of
love (Kim and Chris) safety (Gigi, Kim)
Amerasian children have no life there (Bui Doi)
Based on Puccini’s Mme Butterfly; Frenchmen
Schonberg and Boublil wrote in 1989; Richard
Maltby: English lyrics
Video “The Heat is On” documented audition
thru opening night
Tracers, 1983, conceived John
DiFusco
Slips in time, but 3 basic ones:
1960’s basic training
Williams is harsh to help them survive: 18 weeks
vs. 18 months (USSR. p. 23)
Vietnam - the life of the average, teenage
soldier
Patrols,drugs, rats and rabies,prostitutes, killing,
blanket patrol
1980’s veterans discuss ongoing problems
PTSD, war wounds, birth defects in children,
cancer, children left behind, ingratitude of nation
Evolution of Tracers
Workshoped by actors who are also
veterans, with a writer to help shape text
Director, lead writer, actor DiFusco
Workshop performance to complete
writing
All scenes based on real events
Characters are composite of experiences
Veterans of today, looking back, is the
frame of the play
Tracers Quotes
“Eighty percent are
targets; we have no
time to train them to
be more. Ten percent
are fighter. One in a
hundred may become
a warrior.” Williams,
p. 23
“The unwilling, led
by the uneducated, to
do the impossible for
the ungrateful”
Habu, p. 61
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