Marshall Lawton sat in a chair on the stage at Zachary High as the whimsical ringlets of his youth were sacrificed by buzzing clippers and later floated silently to his feet.
Art often imitates life, and Lawton’s life is positioned at the crossroads where a boy becomes not just a man, but a Marine. The art is Zachary High’s production of "A Few Good Men," and it is intersecting with Lawton's real-life goal to enter the Marine Corps after high school.
"A Few Good Men," a play that deals with a Marine murder trial, opens Tuesday, Nov. 7, on the ZHS stage. A few good cast members decided to shave their heads together with the help of Staff Sgt. Juan Ornelas, Lawton’s Marine recruiter. The act was more than a visual prop for the play. Other cast members, like Lawton, plan to enter military service and looked forward to the military cuts.
“I’m joining the Air Force,” senior Chapman Lee Hornsby offered. “I’m going to get my head shaved so I don’t have to do it when I go to boot camp.”
Hornsby takes the witness stand early in the rehearsal session portraying Lt. Kendrick, who’s not too popular because he framed two other Marines for murder. Hornsby, acknowledging that everyone can’t be the hero, said he has no problem playing the character everyone loves to hate. “It’s not that bad; it’s pretty fun, actually,” he said. “Joe (Howard) is also a bad guy, so I’m not really alone.”
Senior Jahvon Bey was in rehearsal in uniform because he’s a corporal in Zachary High’s Junior ROTC. Like Hornsby, he plans to pursue a military career in the Air Force. He has enjoyed his role as a Marine and the small glimpse into the life of a serviceman. “It will basically show a small portion of what Marine life is like and how the support system works,” he said.
Lawton, the prospective Marine, portrays a member of the defense team and has already decided he wants to serve in military intelligence. He explained that a neighbor and former Marine had a great influence on his life and career choice. That gentleman served in Marine intelligence.
"A Few Good Men" was a play by Aaron Sorkin before it gained big-screen success. It tells the story of military lawyers at a court-martial who uncover a high-level conspiracy in the course of defending their clients, two U.S. Marines accused of murder.
Sorkin adapted his work into a screenplay that was directed by Rob Reiner in 1992. It starred Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson, who shouted the iconic line, “You can’t handle the truth!”
The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture and a Golden Globe for best screenplay.
The Zachary High School stage will be transformed into a courtroom again soon after last season’s successful run of the classic trial play "To Kill a Mockingbird.” Turner Bunch returns to the stage and courtroom, but this time as Col. Julius Randolph, the judge overseeing the court martial.
Bunch sees few similarities between the trials because of the social and racial setting of "Mockingbird." The previous work was driven by "racial integrity" and prejudice. A code of honor drives through "A Few Good Men."
“They convicted the black man because of the times,” Bunch said. “They took the words of a questionable white man over that of a hardworking black man.”
But the current production "is more about betraying your men and your country than being focused on race,” he added.
Ornelas said the play depicts Marine life in ways he recognizes. “It portrays it really, really close,” he said. “They portray the pride and discipline at a high value to what it actually means to be in the Marine Corps.”
Marine life may seem counter to the relaxed life of most teenagers, but Ornelas sees more teens like Lawton answering the call to join “the few, the proud, the Marines” because of the disciplined lifestyle.
“One of the reasons young individuals look to the military in general is for that discipline and that structure,” Ornelas said. “They won’t admit that in a group setting, but deep inside, they require that discipline and structure in one form or another to help them reach their goals and live up to the potential they feel they have within them.”
“At the Marines, we hold them accountable to the choices they made and, at the same time, we foster what’s already within them,” Ornelas explained. “They are born with inherent leadership traits as well as characteristics that will help make them successful. We just push them a little bit more to live up to what’s already within them. We just enhance it.”
A Few Good Men will be performed at the Zachary High's Performing Arts, 4100 Bronco Lane, at 7 p.m. Nov. 7, 9, and 11. Tickets can be purchased at https://zhsdrama.ticketleap.com.