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The Tampa Tribune – April 17th 2015

New Port Richey veteran tells her story in musical comedy

By Howard Altman | Tribune Staff Howard Altman on Google+
Published: April 17, 2015   |   Updated: April 17, 2015 at 07:52 PM

“War Virgin” is a musical comedy that draws its inspiration through a New Port Richey veteran’s journey of sexual awakening.

Written by Laura Westley, a 1997 graduate of River Ridge High School who also serves as the narrator, “War Virgin” is an absurdist look at her experience with the military, set against the backdrop of an overbearing father who insisted she abstain from sex.

From conversations with her father about not losing her “sparkle” — a gleam in her eyes that would indicate if she were not yet “damaged goods” — to life at West Point and then being in the initial thrust during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 — “War Virgin “is the antithesis of the “so-there-we-were” genre of battle recollections.

By design.

“If I see another all-American male hero storming some hill with, or another book written about West Point and how everyone is robotic and perfect, I just want to throw up,” says Westley, whose musical, replete with Weird Al Yankovic-like song parodies, debuts Saturday night at the New Port Richey Library.

If Westley, 36, has a governor switch that limits her topics of conversation, it’s broken.

Her discussin about divorce is just one example.

“I’m no longer married to him,” she says of the Army helicopter pilot from whom she is now divorced. “You can put that in the story. I have no shame.”

As the salutatorian of her New Port Richey high school class, she is no stranger to having slices of her life in the public eye. But after leaving the Army as a captain in 2006, and coming to grips with depression, estrangement from family and friends and a suicide attempt, Westley is a self-described open book, willing to discuss things that most people, military or civilian, would rather keep hidden.

But aside from the performance aspect, which includes writing and singing and dancing, Westley says there is a greater purpose for her candor.

“I almost feel like the champion of the masses,” she says over a bowl of oatmeal at a New Port Richey diner. “I want to inspire other people to come forward with their stories because a lot of people don’t feel like they have a voice.”

That’s especially true, says Westley, at West Point, where she graduated just months before 9/11.

“A lot of people, especially at West Point, struggle with the image of perfection,” says Westley. “There are not enough vulnerable West Pointers out there.”

Westley says she wants to “educate the public and inspire a feminist movement in the military, so women can stop having to apologize for their gender and be accepted for who they are.”

She says she has a plan for a traveling company, either with the current troupe or a road company, with the ultimate goal being a Broadway production.

Westley serves as the play’s narrator and sings as well. Put on by the Gypsy Stage Repertory, it is directed by Lil Barcaski and stars Tracy Roese, Tim Guerrieri, Jonathan Thornsberry and Danny-Ray Polson.

“War Virgin” opens 3 p.m. Saturday at the New Port Richey Public Library, 5939 Main St., New Port Richey. There are also performances 7 p.m. Sunday at The Studio@620, 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg, 8 p.m. April 22 at Cribari Night Club, 6153 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey and May 2 and 3 at the Silver Meteor Gallery, 2213 E. 6th Ave., Tampa. For information and ticket prices, go to warvirgin.com.

haltman@tampatrib.com

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About the author

Laura Westley, aka, the War Virgin, hails from New Port Richey, Florida and graduated from West Point in 2001 with a degree in Chemistry and a minor in Nuclear Engineering. She commissioned as an officer in the US Army Adjutant’s General Corps and was assigned to the Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division in Savannah, Georgia. On March 21, 2003, Laura and her unit were a part of the initial Iraq invasion.