On Wednesday evening, July 6, the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse welcomes Andrew Carroll’s play If All the Sky Were Paper for a one-night-only showing at the Performing Arts Center. Based on the New York Times best-selling author’s journey to over 30 different nations accumulating war letters, the play is literally a project born from ashes.

“I had no interest in history growing up and did not come from a military family,” said Mr. Carroll. A fire at his Washington D.C. family home changed everything in 1989.

“The books, clothing, furniture were all gone, but they were replaceable,” he said. Just a sophomore at Columbia University, Mr. Carroll knew he had lost something far more valuable. “We lost all our letters from friends and family overseas which were irreplaceable.”

Attempting to fill the void left behind by the letters, distant cousin and World War II veteran James Carroll Jordan gave the family an old war letter he almost threw out days before. Dated April 21, 1945, the letter chronicled the days after Buchenwald concentration camp’s liberation and Nazi Germany’s surrender.

Mr. Carroll was mesmerized by the letter and later initiated the Legacy Project to preserve war letters. If All the Sky Were Paper includes readings of these letters along with the narrative journey of Mr. Carroll’s quest to collect them.

“The point isn’t about books or plays,” Mr. Carroll stressed. “The main focus is to save these war letters before they are lost forever. Letters from family members whose loved one’s are serving overseas are really overlooked.”

In an effort to accumulate as many war letters possible, Mr. Carroll reached out to the newspaper advice column “Dear Abby.” Column author Jeanne Phillips then ran an open advertisement requesting families to contribute letters by sending them in to the project.

“It’s amazing how most of the letters aren’t about war, but human nature,” said Mr. Carroll. “The emotions of going off to war is a very timeless experience.”

The letters vary by date. Some arrived as Revolutionary War artifacts. Others arrived in fresh postal mail packages from Afghanistan. Looking to expand the project’s focus internationally, Mr. Carroll traveled to Viet Nam, Iraq and South Korea.

Mr. Carroll lived the nerve-wracking life of an American soldier when he visited Iraq in November of 2003. Members of the Taliban had bombed the hotel he stayed at just weeks before his arrival. Two weeks before returning home for Thanksgiving, Mr. Carroll narrowly escaped death.

“The plane before mine was hit by a missile,” he said.

Mr. Carroll accumulated over 100,000 letters, and published War Letters and Letters of a Nation — both books received critical acclaim and became bestsellers.

The idea for a play began when Los Angeles director John Benitz saw Mr. Carroll’s adventures featured in a 2008 profile in National Geographic. A co-chair for Chapman University’s Department of Theatre, Mr. Benitz wanted to share Carroll’s project with a wider audience.

“There was something pretty captivating about his experiences,” said Mr. Benitz. “I thought to myself, gosh what an incredible journey.”

Mr. Benitz collaborated with Mr. Carroll on creating a script. He also directs the show, incorporating a narrator to guide the audience through Mr. Carroll’s personal journey while various actors read the war letters. The script is filled with both harrowing and humorous monologues.

“What’s pretty neat is that it becomes a personal experience for the narrator, which helps it become a personal experience for the audience,” said Mr. Benitz.

The play was workshopped in 2009 at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles, had its premiere at Chapman University in 2010. The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles have also hosted past productions of the play.

Mary Steenburgen will star in the Martha’s Vineyard production production as well as Garrett Schweighauser and Monique Edwards. Mr. Schweighauser originally narrated Andrew Carroll’s character during the play’s first production at Chapman University.

Mr. Carroll said wants his Martha’s Vineyard audience to encounter the same depth of feeling he felt holding that first war letter in his hand so many years ago.

“I think we take letters for granted because of the way we email and text today,” he said. “To hold those letters in your hands and know that piece of paper was held in your distant cousins’ hands is incredibly powerful.”

If All the Sky Were Paper begins at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 6, at the Performing Arts Center at the regional high school. The production is a benefit for the Dukes County Veteran Services. For tickets and information, visit mvplayhouse.org.