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Children of the April Rain

Children of the April Rain

(Left) New York City classical musician Lana Mae Noone and herpoet husband Byron (Right) embrace their newly adopted daughter, Heather, April 23, 1975, following “Operation Baby Lift.” Photo courtesy Noone family.

The Story & Characters

There, in April, 1975, as the Viet Cong moved in from the north, were: Cherie Clark, the woman who sold her home in the States to save an independent orphanage in Saigon’s Black Market District; Alyce Kathryn “Sally” Vinyard, a grandmother got all dressed up for the TET Offensive – then wound up supervising the evacuation of thousands of double agents and South Vietnamese loyalists; Sister Marie Therese Leblanc, IHM, a nun who got 36 family members out on one passport;Leann Thieman, a Midwestern housewife who, upon hearing that ARVN, the Army of North Vietnam, were moving south, grabbed a handful of jelly beans and flew straight into the fall of Saigon; and, waiting in New York for the arrival of their adopted infant child were classical musician Lana Mae Noone and her poet husband Byron.

The heroic men included Ross Meador, the 19 year-old who struggled to keep ten year-olds from being drafted; Jeff Gahr, the precocious Vietnamese adoptee who avoided conscription and struck out for America; Ed Daly, the maverick, gun-toting airline executive who, against orders from the Tan Son Nhut Tower, took off and flew 57 orphans into history. There was Colonel Robert Kane, commander in charge of The Presidio who ignored military protocol and mustered half of San Francisco to take them all in; Sgt Phillip R. Wise, the 23-year-old medic aboard the C-5A Inaugural Flight, carrying hundreds of children; and the women volunteers out over The South China Sea.

The Cast*

We are very grateful to have a cast of experienced, dedicated, professional actors to tell the epic story of “Children of the April Rain”:

Dan Franko – Co-Director/Actor (Ed Daly) is a veteran of television and film, appearing in co-starring roles on “Veep,” “The Wire,” and “House of Cards;” Supporting roles in the feature films “On the Wing” and “The Night Watchmen;” as well as in the lead role in the short film “The Recursion Theorem,” premiering later in 2015. Dan’s stage credits include “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” (Mechanic Theatre, Baltimore), Huck Finn in “Big River,” Riff in “West Side Story” and Pfc. Downey in “A Few Good Men”. Website:www.danfranko.com

Robert Neal Marshall – Co-Director/Actor (Narrator) – Credits include: “Captain Phillips” (Discovery Channel), “Countdown to Ground Zero,” “Killing Lincoln;” member of the Emmy-winning casting team for the feature, “Game Change.” In London’s West End – “Me and My Girl,” “High Society” and “The Entertainer” (as Assistant to the late theatre producer Richard Armitage); member of The Lincoln Center Theatre Directors’ Lab, collaboration/adaptation with Boys Choir of Harlem composer Tim Battle of the book Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter into a critically acclaimed children’s musical. Robert Neal Marshall’s new play “41N 50W,” based upon the 1912 Senate Hearings on the RMS Titanic disaster, played the new St. James Theatre in London, in Southampton, and is currently in development for the UK and USA. Website: www.robertnealmarshall.com

Gina Grinkemeyer – Cherie Clark. Film credits include: “The American Werewolf Project,” “Prisoner’s Cinema,” and “Greed;” Website: www.ginagrinkemeyer.com
Mary Agnes Shearon – Sally Vinyard. Film & TV credits include: “On The Wing,” “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “America’s Most Wanted.” Website: IMDBhttp://www.imdb.com/name/nm1605210
Melissa LaMartina – Lana Mae Noone. Film & Stage credits include: “Call Girl of Cthulhu,” “Spare Rooms,” as Agent Mercury in the Baltimore Rock Opera Society’s “Chronoshred”. Website: IMDB http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6112327
Matthew J Bowerman – Ross Meador. Film, TV & stage credits include: “The Night Watchmen,” “House of Cards,” “One Penny,” and “Awesome 80’s Prom” (Off Broadway). Website: IMDB www.imdb.com/name/nm2771316
Alexis Barone – Thanh Jeffery Gahr/ Sofia Kremedes. Film credits include: “V/H/S/2”. Website: IMDB http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2984850
Jill Redding – Sister Marie Therese Leblanc, IHM. TV credits include: “Game Change” and “The Wire”. Website: IMDB www.imdb.com/name/nm0714720
Altorro Prince Black – Sgt. Phillip R. Wise. Film & TV credits include: “House of Cards,” “Drakul” and “Bachelorette’s Degree.” Website: IMDB www.imdb.me/altorro
Ken Arnold – Col. Robert Kane. Film & TV credits include: “Men In Black 3,” “House of Cards” and “The Night Watchmen.” Website: www.kenarnold.com
Michelle Norris – Leann Thieman. TV & Stage credits include: “All My Father’s Children,” “The Conspiracist” and “Nephrectemy” – Fringe Festival. Website: IMDB http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2721021
Donald Imm – Byron Noone/ Voice of Deputy Surgeon General of the Army. Film credits include: “On the Wing,” “The Lonesome Rail” and “The Night Watchmen.” Website: www.facebook.com/Donald-Imm-Actor-615284285152185

The Writers

The Memoirs of Co-Authors: Cherie Clark, Thanh Jeffery Gahr, Col. Robert V. Kane, Sister Marie Therese Leblanc IHM, Ross Meador, Lana Mae Noone, Leann Thieman, Alyce Kathryn “Sally” Vinyard, Phillip R. Wise

William Bryant Doty – Playwright. Associate Producer, the PBS Special “Godunov: The World to Dance In;” Co-Producer, “Glenda Jackson’s Princess and the Goblin” (Television International, London); editor, the commercial television release of “I Claudius.” As long-time publicist: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Tell Me On a Sunday” (syndication), and live, early satellite airings: “The Sleeping Beauty Ballet Live from Covent Garden” and “Christmas from Christ Church, Cambridge.”

Special Thanks

Actor’s Club, Baltimore (www.facebook.com/ActorsClub.)
The Columbia Art Center for rehearsal space.
Kathy Manney – representing the Clark AFB wives who received and cared for the children.
Robert O’Neal, Band & Choir Director, North Carroll High School, Hampstead, MD.
Susan, Rick and David Gallaher for Rick’s Service with those children in Vietnam and for their unending support.

* Several of our cast members appear in two recent film projects. “The Night Watchmen” (which is in the final stages of post- production) and “On The Wing.” The film, “On The Wing” recently won “Best Feature Film” at the Louisville International Film Festival, and sold out its local premiere at the Washington West Film Festival in Reston. For more information on these projects, visit: The Night Watchmenand On The Wing.