This story also appears on page 14 of the August 4 print edition of Ace.
The transition from the battlefield to life back home is a long road for our war veterans. The documentary drama “civilian,” based on oral history interviews of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, carefully examines the transition from soldier to civilian for a group of veterans adjusting to college life at the University of Kentucky.
Written by playwright Herman Daniel Farrell III, it has been selected to premiere at the 15th New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) August 12-28, 2011. FringeNYC is the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues. A preview performance of “civilian” will be presented to raise funds for the trip Monday, Aug. 8, at Guignol Theatre.
This play (first staged in April 2010) is taken from real student veterans’ accounts collected by the Nunn Center for Oral History and Veterans Resource Center. The personal stories were then taken byFarrell and his UK theatre students and crafted and staged into an intimate portrait of five veterans’ experiences going to war and returning to a college campus.
Farrell, co-writer of the Peabody Award winning HBO Film *Boycott* about MLK, returns to the Fringe for the third time with this docudrama.
In January 2010, Doug Boyd, director of the UK Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, working with veteran and alumnus Tyler Gayheart and Tony Dotson, director of the Veterans Resource Center, launched the oral history project “From Combat to Kentucky” in order to chronicle the stories of student veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Subsequently, Farrell, an assistant professor of playwriting at UK, and students in his “Staging History” course at the UK Department of Theatre devised a verbatim drama drawn from the oral history transcripts. The play, “Bringing It Home: Voices of Student Veterans,” premiered in April 2010 in the Buell Armory on the UK campus.
This new play “civilian” incorporates additional interviews by student veterans and addresses a current brewing problem in America. “Recently, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed his concern that there is a growing divide between those who have served in the armed forces and the civilian populace,” says Farrell. “This play closely examines the current fraught relationship between civilians and veterans while also conveying the heart-wrenching stories of men and women who served in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned home and have struggled to make the transition back to civilian life.”
Through the collaboration, the three university programs hoped to provide some insight about veterans’ experience. “I am excited to be a part of something so powerful,” says Dotson. “This is a unique opportunity for the average American to get a look at war from the perspective of the warrior and not CNN. If this doesn’t make you want to thank a veteran for their service, nothing will.”
Boyd is happy to see the Nunn Center’s work shared on the stage. “So many different ground level descriptions are coming out of the interviews of shortcomings and triumphs in these experiences,” says the oral historian. “I think the more those can be expressed and articulated to the general public, the better, because that is how we grow and learn as a society.”
The play will be presented to New York audiences five times as part of FringeNYC from Sunday, Aug. 14 to Sunday, Aug. 28 at the Bleecker Street Theater.
To help pay for the trip and lodging to present the production in New York City, UK’s Theatre Dept, Nunn Center for Oral History and Veterans Resource Center will present a preview performance of “civilian” at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8, at Guignol Theatre, located in the UK Fine Arts Building. (Audience members are asked to donate what they can for the UK performance.)
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