Ken LaZebnik, director of the Stephens College M.F.A. in TV and Screenwriting, has released a new screenplay about the family of a Columbia soldier killed in Afghanistan three years ago.
Some 5,000 people showed up at Sterling Wyatt’s funeral in downtown Columbia in 2012 to shield the family from Westboro Baptist Church protestors. The rally became so large that most in the crowd barely noticed the small group of picketers.
The play, STERLING, chronicles Wyatt’s mother, Sherry, and her journey as a Gold Star mother.
LaZebnik, who went to high school with Wyatt’s father, Randy, said he became interested in the media’s portrayal of military after his own son, Jack, went to West Point.
“I had the sudden realization that I had stereotypes in my mind of what soldiers would be like—stereotypes inspired by my own industry in television and film,” he said. “At that point, I devoted myself to writing material that would present soldiers and their families as more fully human.”
LaZebnik said he felt compelled to tell the Wyatt family’s story after seeing news reports from the so-called “Red Wall” that formed at Wyatt’s funeral.
“Sherry and Ryan Wyatt and their son, Chandler, are remarkable people,” LaZebnik said. “Their son was a hero, but they are heroes to me, too. It’s their journey that I hope to tell.”
The Writers Guild Foundation is presenting a benefit reading of STERLING starring Stephens alumna Annie Potts in the role of Sherry Wyatt. The reading starts at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at WGAW headquarters in L.A. The reading is being directed by Stephens alumnus Mark Taylor. Proceeds will benefit the WGA Foundation’s Veteran Writing Workshop.
LaZebnik said he would love to someday produce and film the story in Columbia, “but at this point that is a goal for the future.”
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