Keliher Walsh grew up in a military family.
"My father was an admiral in the Navy, so I'm very interested in the military," Walsh says from her Los Angeles home. "I'm very interested in how people behave in times of war. It just fascinates me."
She grew up during the Vietnam War and had friends who served during that war, and she had two sons who easily could have been part of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It just deeply moved me: the idea of mothers and women in time of war, and how do they operate?" Walsh says. "How do they not become part of collateral damage?"
Walsh is also a theater director, actor and playwright, so those thoughts took the form of a play, The Year of the Rabbit.
Last summer, the play won the Kentucky Women Writers Conference's inaugural Prize for Women Playwrights, which included a world premiere production by Lexington's Balagula Theatre. The Year of the Rabbit opens Sunday and runs for two weeks.
The competition initially was judged by a committee from the conference and Balagula. Then internationally acclaimed playwright Naomi Wallace, a native of Prospect, chose Walsh's script from three finalists.
"Year of the Rabbit makes evident, with a fresh theatricality and original imagination, the historical and emotional connectedness we often wish to deny between what one might call Big History and the most intimate experiences of our lives," Wallace said in a news release from the writers conference. "The play brings together the disparate worlds of love and war, and the collision is both disturbing and at times, deeply moving."
The play centers on a number of people from the Vietnam War and the current war in Afghanistan. A thread between them is a Vietnamese woman who marries a black American soldier. Their daughter becomes a weapons officer on a Navy fighter plane. She falls in love with the white pilot, who is from a wealthy family.
"There are a lot of different levels that war brings up," Walsh says. "I tried to weave two generations together."
With Walsh having no connection to Lexington or Balagula Theatre, she says the production has been a unique experience for her. But Walsh says she and director Natasha Williams have had extensive phone conversations about the show.
"I'm very excited about seeing it done," Walsh says.