Using the medium of live theater to tell a little-known WWII story, Victoria Zisi (’20), a recent graduate from the Department of the Theater Arts, wrote a play about undercover codebreakers that was recently featured by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. (KCACTF) as the first replacement for the David L. Shelton Playwriting Award, awarded to original plays written by students.
Zisi is the first Liberty student to receive this specific award. Due to restrictions on COVID-19 social gatherings, she will be honored at an ACTF Region IV virtual festival in February.
Zisi performed her play when she was a student last fall. She graduated in December with a BA in Theater Arts: Production and is currently an intern in the Theater Arts Department.
“Blind to the Truth” is based on the true story of code girls during World War II, whose central role in the story has only been declassified a few years ago. Under the guise of being secretaries of the United States Navy, these women worked to crack the German intelligence code and encrypt Allied communications. In Zisi’s storyline, Code Girl’s fictional protagonist Betty Jo must continue to decipher the enemy’s plans after the Battle of Midway while facing a potentially endangered fiancé and an unknown spy within. from his headquarters.
Zisi first heard about the largely unknown history of the Code Girls in the summer of 2019 when she purchased the book “Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II”, writes by Liza Mundy. The idea of adapting it for a play came to her in the fall when she enrolled in a dramaturgy class.
“I knew I wanted to do something to tell people about code girls, but I didn’t know it would take the form of writing a play until I had a dream one night and the dream was the plot of a play about them, “Zisi recalled. “I said, ‘God, I guess you want me to write about this because you just gave me the plot. “”
Throughout the semester, Zisi wrote the play with the help of her classmates and Professor Linda Nell Cooper, Chair of the Theater Arts Department. Coincidentally, other theatrical arts students in the class who were participating in the department’s annual writing project at the time were also writing a true story set during World War II titled “Bedford Boys.” Zisi was allowed to use their research materials and community contacts to write her own play.
“We would write about six pages (of our individual plays) at a time, bring them up, and we would have a few actors read the pages and give their opinion on it,” Zisi said. “Professor Cooper was also giving commentary and we were using the play writing process as a way to learn dramatic writing. “
Live theater, Zisi explained, is an effective way to tell true stories and connect audiences to real people and events in history.
“You can read something in a history book and say, ‘Wow, that’s pretty awesome’, but now you see it come to life on stage and all of a sudden you watch it unfold, you’re a part of it,” a- she declared. . “It’s such a powerful medium that I’ve always been drawn to as a way to educate people about history because it’s not just about names and dates; it’s alive and they are real people. The story is about so many real people like us with real struggles, and there’s a certain connection that happens when you see it played out and acted out.
In December 2019, Zisi and her classmates performed short demonstration readings of their completed works. “Blind to the Truth” then went on to a full dramatic reading at the Tower Theater to the general public in February 2020, after which it received public comment.
Last summer, Zisi worked with a local WWII historian named Kathy Jaberg to expand the room and add the finishing touches.
In addition to the Kennedy Center recognition, Zisi is in conversation with a professional regional theater regarding a possible production of “Blind to the Truth.”
Read Zisi’s script on the KCACTF website.