One of the perks of working on a Civil War Christmas at CenterStage in Baltimore was getting to share a brief cup of tea with the playwright Paula Vogel. We talked about many things including the collaborative systems in theater, how to manage dialogue on stage, and our shared interest in projects involving veterans from our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In one sentence she said (and I paraphrase) that her sense is that the veteran’s PTSD gets worse as they tell the story over and over. Somewhere in that process she believed they needed something else and so she brought in actors and had the vets “direct” them in the action.
I found this idea so compelling that on our recent residency at Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC), I decided to try it. We had an afternoon workshop with the performers in the piece along with a nurse from the Vietnam War, a young woman home from her recent deployment , and a mother who had lost her son in Iraq. It was an amazing two hours filled with stories, premonitions and tears. And we also had our visitors give us direction on how to perform some of the ideas of the project we are working on called Healing Wars.
I don’t know if any of what happened will “make it into” the performance piece. But I do know that the way we were affected will, and that the movement and storytelling that came after our encounter that afternoon will carry forward in our bodies for a very long time.