A note from the director
When I was first given the mission of combining the worlds of theater and the military, I was unsure if the bridge could be built. Would the language transfer? Would this cast of veterans trust me to help them unlock their emotional armor and use it to tell a powerful story and to heal? What would happen if their Post-Traumatic Stress triggered in rehearsals or performances? And how would we help each other through it?
To be honest, I was unsteady.
One of the first common threads that we discovered between the military and the arts lay in the mission itself: We see the challenge, we gather our facts, we make a plan, and we run head-on into unknown territory … bravely, boldly, and without apologies.
The most repeated question that I receive about directing this piece (and, additionally, taking on the role of the acting coach) is how did we arrive at a common creative ground? A place where they could discover their vulnerability as a strength and not a weakness? The simple answer is trust…from both sides. I relied on them to guide me when traditional theater language didn’t translate or a civilian’s eye was not rich enough to tell the story authentically. When their PTS was triggered, they learned that—together—we created a safe environment. We were there with them, and wouldn’t vacate their sides, no matter how dark it got. They trusted me to help them (as I call it) “jump in the emotion pool and trust their vulnerability.” And I showed them where the ladder was when it was time to end our exploration.
They enriched my knowledge of war by sharing stories of what it was truly like to be on the front lines and working with the locals in foreign lands. We incorporated their intimate knowledge of language, environment, and relationships to further flesh out and deepen the truthfulness of these characters. We did this as a team with a common goal: to shed light on the tolls that war takes on our soldiers and their families.
In battle, if you show vulnerability, you will be killed. However, on stage, if you don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable, your truth becomes a casualty in your storytelling. These courageous souls spent much of their lives fighting for our liberty. Now, we share their stories—full-heartedly and bravely—to help heal the wounds of our veterans, give a voice to the sacrifices of their families, and educate our civilians.
We are actively changing the perception that our vulnerabilities—our scars—are a weakness. Sharing our struggles doesn’t lessen our power; it makes us resiliently unstoppable healers. To bond, to heal, to expose, and to express the truth of what war does to the family is a conversation that our great country needs to start having.
Did this uniting of two seemingly different worlds prove to be successful? My answer is yes. We as veterans, family members, and civilians, are all searching for the same thing. Connection. May we use our stories and our scars to bond together, strengthen our ties, and see how truly similar we all are …. underneath our own armor.