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Family Ties

Playwright and Lakewood native Michael Tisdale connects with families of fallen Marines through their stories
By Anne Hartman
In early August 2005, Michael Tisdale got news that his father had died following a long illness. He drove through the night from New York City — where he’d been living for 13 years as an actor and playwright — to his mother’s house in Lakewood.

That same week, families and friends of 22 Marines were dealing with losses of their own. The soldiers, all with the 3rd Battalion 25th Marines based in Brook Park, were killed in Iraq. The deaths occurred during three incidents, separated by a matter of days.

Tisdale read the local papers filled with headlines about the fallen Marines, but it wasn’t until his father’s memorial service that he felt a connection. His father had served in the Navy 40-some years before, and his mother was presented with a flag at the service. “Everything I’d read about the Marines took on a heightened significance at that moment,” Tisdale says.

Even after returning to his life in New York, the Marines’ stories stayed on his mind. He kicked around the idea of writing a play about them, based on the dozens of articles he’d read following the events. But reading about them was one thing; meeting their families, hearing their stories and understanding how much was lost was something else entirely.

Tisdale realized what he had to do: Pick up a phone and cold-call the families. “I’m not a journalist,” he’d say. “And in the same week you lost your son, I lost my father.”

Check back Oct. 1 for the full story.


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