Erinn Diaz is the creator, choreographer and director of Letters From Home. She is the creator and CEO of Fun at First in Flight Entertainment, overseeing and creating entertainment for hundreds of professional gigs each year, and the creator and Executive Director of the Spring Theatre, a non-profit theatre company in North Carolina. Erinn has been working in the entertainment industry since she was barely walking, and has worked on over 250 theatrical productions nationwide, as well as being in several TV shows and movies. Erinn is also a published author, a national tap dance champion, has worked on-board cruise ships and toured with Cirque productions.
Erinn Says: My dad, Pat Dearth, is a veteran who served in the United States Coast Guard. When he first suggested to me that I produce an Andrews Sisters tribute show, I just thought it would be a fun way to entertain and an opportunity to perform some great music. I had no idea at the time that this "little show" would have such a significant impact on my life, but more importantly on the lives of others. Since we started this show, we have had the opportunity to perform for literally thousands of World War II veterans. These incredible men and women are the reason we are free today. We have been honored to bring back happy memories and touch lives in a way that words alone can not express. A woman at one of our shows hugged me, sobbing tears of joy, thanking us for making her feel happiness that she hadn't felt in 60 years and never thought she could feel again. A man at a VA hospital stood up to hug us after a show as his nurses rushed to him in shock because he hadn't stood by himself in years. A WWII veteran departing on the Flights of Honor on the way to Washington DC to see his memorial did the jitterbug with me before returning to his wheelchair. I am so proud and humbled to call these brave men and women my friends. I have met true American heroes and truly feel I could never say thank you enough. My performances are dedicated to my Uncle Jim, a Vietnam veteran, my brother Randy, currently serving in the Air Force, my friend and WWII veteran Dewitt Wells, my dear husband Nelson, a veteran of the Air Force, and especially my daddy, a veteran of the United States Coast Guard who was always my inspiration and gave me the idea for the show. They and all veterans are why I do this.
Serah Haley moved to Winston-Salem when she was ten years old and has been involved with music and performing for as long as she can remember. She had several roles in musical theater, including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cabaret and Oklahoma. She took a hiatus from theater while she directed the Tar Heel Voices at UNC Chapel Hill, but returned for Back to The 80s in 2009 when she moved back to Winston-Salem from Chicago. She has been teaching at Forsyth Country Day School since 2008 and is grateful for their support of Letters From Home.
Serah Says: I believe that most of my generation lives life as though wars were only really "fought" many years ago and find it hard to relate to those who have protected our freedom even before we were born. We watch the news and receive a very "arms-length" perspective on the wars of today. I was raised to believe that to lay down one's life for another is the greatest sacrifice of all, so why would we not continue to honor and show our gratitude today as we did so many years ago? The 1940s were governed by war in a way that my generation will never know. What I do know is the men that emerged from WWII or any war since then deserve so much more than any thank you I could ever offer. My grandfather, John F. Vance, fought bravely in the front lines of the U.S. Army in Germany during WWII. Only when he was nearing the end of his life did I ever truly begin to get a glimpse into his experience during the war. When Erinn approached me with the idea of putting together a tribute to his era, I was ecstatic! Unfortunately, he passed away one month before we began rehearsing for this show. I know how much this show would have meant to him, so I put my heart and soul into it to honor him and his brothers who fought next to him. My grandfather, Robert Frack, served our nation ten years later overseas in the U.S. Air Force and continues to be one of our greatest supporters today. I am so thankful to both of them for instilling in me a love for my country, and a humble respect for those who have risked their lives to protect me. So, why do I do this? I do this because, whether you served on your belly at the front line of WWII, overseas in a draft, enlisted on your own accord, or are still serving our country today, I owe every freedom I have to you and want to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
CHELSEA DE LA CUADRA
Chelsea de la Cuadra is thrilled to be joining the ranks of Letters From Home! Chelsea is an alumnus of Colorado Christian University where she studied vocal performance. She has an extensive background in a variety of genres from jazz to opera. Favorite stage credits include Ana Maria (Central City Opera's En Mis Palabras), Nellie Forbush (South Pacific), Carrie (Carousel), Annie Oakley (Annie Get Your Gun!), and Amish mother Rebecca Lapp (The Confession, Blue Gate Musicals.) Recently relocated from Colorado to North Carolina, Chelsea has enjoyed making her debuts with the Gallery Players of Burlington and The Barn Dinner Theatre. Chelsea is the proud wife of guitarist David VanderHamm, and owner of Clementine, the Great Dane, whom she currently resides with in the Triangle area of North Carolina.
Chelsea says: On my first tour with Letters From Home, I will never forget how touching it was to see the faces of the men who served in the armed forces as they were recognized for their service through music. I have always believed very strongly in the capability of music to share stories with people and to move and unite them in ways that isn't always possible in our day to day lives. To be a part of a group that can honor veterans from all eras, thank active duty service members and their loved ones, bring smiles to faces of the weak and the able-bodied alike, and can touch people from all ages, backgrounds and walks of life is truly a special gift. I especially thank my father and my grandfather for their many years of service in the military, and all my friends and family who still currently serve. It is a joy to use the wonders of music to support, encourage, and thank you!
NELSON DIAZ (MANAGER)
Nelson Diaz has always been a supporter and lover of the arts, and is passionate about providing the community quality entertainment. An official "Half-Back", Nelson grew up in New York, moved to Florida, and then came half-back to settle in North Carolina with his wonderful wife, Erinn Diaz. A graduate of Columbia University now turned entrepreneur. Father to three amazing kids, Max, Diana and Yoko, and "grandpa" to Caleigh. When Nelson is not touring with Letters From Home, he is most well-known as "The World Coach" (www.TheWorldCoach.com).
Nelson Says: If you haven’t seen the face of a WWII veteran light up when we bring back those powerful and wonderful memories, you haven’t experienced joy. If you haven’t seen a 91 year old grab a hold of one of the performers and do the jitterbug as his caretaker then walks over and says to him, after the dance, “Here is the wheel chair you requested”, then you haven’t experienced gut wrenching laughter. If you haven’t seen caretakers rush to a combat veteran at the VA Hospital who stood up from his wheel chair and walked over to hug one of the girls at the end of the show, but yet no one had ever seen him walk, then you haven’t experienced the awesome magnitude of an emotional miracle. I have seen the faces of the men and women who have sacrificed so much for us. I have thanked them and this is what I hear the most as a reply….”You are worth it.” I tear up every time. It is why I feel so strongly about it and it is why we do this.