Pfc. Jessica Surprise is the director of “Scuba Lessons,” a one-act play that will be performed at FOB Marez in Mosul, Iraq, in November.

Pfc. Jessica Surprise is the director of “Scuba Lessons,” a one-act play that will be performed at FOB Marez in Mosul, Iraq, in November. (Rick Emert / S&S)

MOSUL, Iraq — Even in Mosul the show must go on.

But, it almost didn’t when only three people showed up for Friday’s auditions for the play “Scuba Lessons,” directed by Pfc. Jessica Surprise, 94th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy).

“A lot of people talked to me about it and were interested in auditioning,” Surprise said. “I think missions probably prevented them from coming.”

By Saturday morning she had her cast of five lined up — most of them from her battalion — and rehearsals were to begin on Monday.

To some, it may seem a little odd for soldiers to be thinking about putting on a play while deployed to Mosul, where mortars and makeshift bombs are regular occurrences.

“I guess it’s unusual to stage a play in a combat zone now,” Surprise said. “It was common for soldiers to perform and entertain their fellow troops during World War II, but you don’t see it so much nowadays.”

The one-act play is a romantic comedy that takes place in a coffee shop. The productions are scheduled to run from Nov. 7 to 9 at the Forward Operating Base Marez Community Activity Center. Surprise, who works in the supply section of Company A, 94th Engineers, knows that bringing the production to the stage won’t be easy.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Surprise said. “The soldiers will not be able to make all of the rehearsals, because there are so many missions. Everyone is very busy.”

But, with six rehearsals each week lasting two-and-a-half to three hours, the soldiers should be able to catch enough of them to learn their lines and cues.

A couple of them, like Spc. Justin Teplitz, Headquarters Support Company, 94th Engineers, have some experience with high school productions.

“I took an acting class in college and was in high school plays,” he said. “This will be a nice change; a break from the daily duties.”

As one of the three who showed up for the auditions, Teplitz was guaranteed a role in the play.

The work now will be constructing the sets. While the activity center has carpenters who can help build the sets, Surprise said she would try to get carpenters from her unit to pitch in, as well.

She downloaded scripts from the Internet and got permission through e-mail from the play’s author, Joseph Zeccola, to stage the play free of charge.

“He was very gracious; he was pleased that his play would be performed in Iraq,” she said.

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