Brenda Wonble directing "Guns of Ava" while sitting next to Ken Dula, the Vietnam veteran the play is based off of. PHOTO BY BRUCE DEPYSSLER/ CAMPUS ECHO ADVISOR
After months of seeing each other, Brett (played by Gergory Bilberry) finally musters up the courage to ask Ava (played by Taneka Miles) to go steady with him. PHOTO BY BRUCE DEPYSSLER/ CAMPUS ECHO ADVISOR
The soliders standing at attention at their first day at boot camp. PHOTO BY BRUCE DEPYSSLER/ CAMPUS ECHO ADVISOR
Ava soon reconnects with her old lover Reggie (played by Steffon Sharpless), who tries to steal her heart from Brett with rings and other material items. PHOTO BY BRUCE DEPYSSLER/ CAMPUS ECHO ADVISOR

Womble’s ‘Guns of Ava’ pays tribute to Vietnam Vet

November 9, 2016

Brenda Womble, an elements of speech instructor, at N.C. Central University is no stranger when it comes to producing, writing, and directing plays.

She has been with the Department of Mass Communication for 30 years. Coupled with her dedication for educating, Womble is also an award-winning actress, director, and playwright with over 22 plays.

One being “A Crazy Kind of Love,” which has been viewed across Europe and Africa.

When asked why playwriting is so important, Womble said “I think that it captures so many facets of life. People’s stories need to be heard and told. What compels me to write is when I bring to life issues and situations that people face everyday.”

“Guns of Ava” is a special kind of play because it is the first non-fiction play Womble has written. The play is based on the true story of her dear friend and decorated war veteran Ken Dula, who was a solider in the Vietnam War, a controversial war where a grand total of about 1,450,000 people died.

Dula is a long-standing barber at NCCU in the Alfonso Elder Student Union.

The play is set in the 1960s, around the time of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

A young man goes off to war thinking that the woman he loves will be back home waiting for his return. However, it was “the darkest side of night” for him.

A term Womble uses to describe the emotional distraught Dula experienced receiving the Dear John letter shortly after his Lieutenant died in is arms. To make matters worse, everyone in his platoon had been killed or so badly injured, he never saw them again.

When asked what message the play conveys, Womble said it’s about “the message is of hope, redemption, and forgiveness, being able to cope with unbearable situations, because there is a place and time when you have to press beyond measure to achieve the impossible.”

When Dula was asked how he initially felt when Womble mentioned she wanted to share his story, he said that “it helped me heal, for so many years the war was not something that I would talk about, because there were things that were so graphic.”

Dula expressed that seeing this aspect of his life performed on stage was strange.

Dula described the war as a nightmare and a very traumatic experience. His mother had told him that one day his story would be told.

Years later when the conversation came up over lunch at Elmo’s Diner with Womble, he opened up because he saw how inspired she was.

Womble hopes that the audience will see that when soldiers leave home and then return home from war, it changes something within them.

The play “Guns of Ava” is in honor of Veterans Day, which falls on Nov. 11 this year.

Womble hopes that the audience will get a better appreciation of soldiers that serve and have served this country. This play serves as tribute for veterans all across the country.

Womble says that “faith carries you a long way, you can lose a little and gain a lot. When God closes one door he opens another.”

“Guns of Ava” will premier for the first time at The Art’s Center in Carrboro, N.C. on Saturday Nov. 10 at 7:30 pm.

Students can purchase tickets for $15 while the general public can obtain tickets for $20 at VIP tickets are sold for $40, which includes refreshments and a question-and-answer session with war veterans.

Story by Terri King

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