Pittsford, N.Y. - The life and death of Marine Lance Cpl. Zach Smith, 19 of Hornell, is a story that has captivated many including those of us here at 13WHAM News. Next week, a play written by one of Smith’s close friends will open at Nazareth College.
“Smith” is a three act performance put on by a cast and crew comprised of Nazareth College students who are all about the same age as Zach Smith. Playwright Gloria Gambino began working on the project two years ago and it evolved as the cast formed and added their own creative twists.
"It's been a collaboration of the actors and the artists that have been here,” Gambino explained. “There are so many wonderful moments of the show that did not come from me, that came from some of the actors and suggestions.”
The cast and crew have worked to study Smith’s life and spent time talking to or visiting with many of the characters they play. Last week, the team traveled to Hornell as a group to visit Smith’s family.
"They got to meet all of the people they're playing, they spent some time in Zach's house and got to see his bedroom and meet with his family and friends and then we went to the church where (Zach and Anne) got married and, of course, where the funeral was held,” said Gambino.
"His story is indicative of so many other stories," actress Samantha Jo Buckman said. “But his is so, it's dramatic. He was married and then six months later he died.
"The best part about being in this play is the characters are true, the truth is there. You don't have to find it because it's real and that's always a struggle when you're acting, finding the truth. The truth is there, it is right in front of me, I just have to get up on stage and say it."
Smith was killed while fighting in Afghanistan. He married the love of his life, Anne (Deebs) Smith, the summer before he was deployed. At the age of eleven, he was profoundly impacted by the September 11th attacks and remained committed to becoming a Marine in the years that followed.
The cast and crew of “Smith” are students who were about the same age when those attacks occurred. In preparation for the performance, the cast and crew has been meeting for lunch each Tuesday.