Costs of War Presentation Summaries/Abstracts

Film Screening: Where Soldiers Come From
(Thursday 3:00 - 4:45 p.m., Film/Video Theatre, Wexner Center for the Arts)

Heather Courtney

From a snowy small town in Northern Michigan to the mountains of Afghanistan and back, Where Soldiers Come From follows the four-year journey of childhood friends, forever changed by a faraway war.

A film about growing up, Where Soldiers Come From is an intimate look at the young men who fight our wars and the families and town they come from. Returning to her hometown, Director Heather Courtney gains extraordinary access following these young men as they grow and change from reckless teenagers, to soldiers looking for roadside bombs in Afghanistan, to 23-year-old veterans dealing with the silent war wounds of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and PTSD.

Enticed by a $20,000 signing bonus and the college tuition support, best friends Dominic and Cole join the National Guard after graduating from their rural high school. Soon their group of friends joins them, and eventually the young men are sent to Afghanistan, where they spend their days sweeping for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). By the time their deployment ends, they are no longer the carefree group of friends they were before enlisting; repeated bombs blowing up around their convoys have led to TBI symptoms, and they have all become increasingly disillusioned about their mission.

The challenges really begin to surface when they return to their families and communities in Michigan. Where Soldiers Come From looks beyond the guns and policies of an ongoing war to tell a human story about family, friendship, and community and how they all change when young people go off to fight.

Where Soldiers Come From won the 2012 Independent Spirit Truer Than Fiction Award, and is a co-production of Quincy Hill Films and ITVS, in association with American Documentary | POV. The film had its national broadcast premiere in Fall 2011 on PBS’s award-winning documentary series POV, and has been chosen as an encore broadcast in September 2012.

My Greater Jihad 
(Friday 9:45 - 10:45 a.m., Roy Bowen Theatre, Drake Performance and Event Center)
Genevieve Chase

Genevieve Chase created the organization American Women Veterans. It is the nation’s preeminent, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of servicewomen, veterans and their families. They welcome veterans and supporters from all eras and branches of service.

Art Exhibit/Presentation: The Third Mind
(Friday 10:45 - 11:10 a.m., Lobby, Drake Performance and Event Center)
Marco Montanari and Elaine Handley

Marco Montanari and Elaine Handley have collaborated as painter and poet to explore what “the third mind” might offer as they take on the subject of war. This artistic conversation explores how the ancient image of a warrior’s shield speaks to us of war.

Challenging the Healing Gaze: Reconceiving Veteran/Civilian Relations through The Telling Project
(Friday 11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., New Works Lab, Drake Performance and Event Center)
Max Rayneard

In this paper, Rayneard seeks to trouble the all-too-common assumption that veteran art is therapeutic through the lens of his experience as a writer and director for The Telling Project, which has increasingly distanced itself from the idea that its work serves a therapeutic mandate.

The Veterans Project: Embodied History
(Friday 11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., New Works Lab, Drake Performance and Event Center)
Erika Hughes and Boyd Branch

The Veterans Project is a multi-year ongoing performance initiative based out of Arizona State University that features male and female veterans from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force in an unscripted onstage forum where they are invited to share their stories of military service and civilian life. It has been presented four times, in Tempe, Tucson, and Phoenix, Arizona, each time with a different group of veterans. They have shared stories that collectively represented every major US war from Vietnam until the present. Ranging in age from 22 to 70, the veterans we have worked with come from a range of cultural, ethnic, and class backgrounds, and served in varying capacities, including paratrooper, military police, nuclear biological chemical specialist, helicopter captain, intelligence, recruiter, and infantry. Each performance has been completely unique.

Hughes and Branch believe The Veterans Project can utilize the unique act of performance to challenge established narratives around historical events on micro and macro levels, ultimately disrupting the monolithic and uniform discourse surrounding the veteran experience in the post-9/11 United States, and blurring the line between historical subject and historian.

Saddam’s Lions (a ten-minute play by Jacob Juntunten)
(Friday 11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., New Works Lab, Drake Performance and Event Center)
Patrick McGregor

Play Synopsis: After her return from Iraq, Rashida skips out on her own homecoming party. Her brother, Jon, wants to help her reintegrate into society, but she is convinced that no one will understand after her time with Saddam’s lions.

Keynote Presentation: Communalization of War Trauma Through the Arts
(Friday 1:30 - 2:45 p.m., Roy Bowen Theatre, Drake Performance and Event Center)
Dr. Jonathan Shay

Jonathan Shay has written two books, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming, which discuss the notion of Moral Injury by reference to the experiences of American veterans of the Vietnam War, and the experiences depicted in the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Excerpted Staged Reading: Rust on the Bone Arts
(Friday 4:00 - 4:45 p.m., Roy Bowen Theatre, Drake Performance and Event Center)
Bianca Sams

Rust On Bone follows psychologist Dr. Devra Mendoza. She becomes trapped by a stranger in her office and must use all of her training to maneuver her way through a game of cat and mouse with life and death consequences. Rust on Bone looks at the personal cost of war, societal stigmas of therapy, and the ripple effects of trauma and mental illness.

Excerpted Stage Reading: I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays From Contemporary Afghanistan
(Friday 4:00 - 4:45 p.m., Roy Bowen Theatre, Drake Performance and Event Center)

After learning the story of a teenage girl who was forbidden to write poems and set herself on fire in protest, the poet Eliza Griswold and the photographer Seamus Murphy journeyed to Afghanistan to learn about these women and to collect their landays. The poems gathered in I Am the Beggar of the World express a collective rage, a lament, a filthy joke, a love of homeland, an aching longing, a call to arms, all of which belie any facile image of a Pashtun woman as nothing but a mute ghost beneath a blue burqa.

Interactive Workshop - Shakespeare and the Traumatized Mind: The Power of Poetry, Metaphor and the Mask of Character to Re-connect and Re-integrate the Wounded Warrior
(Saturday 9:45 - 11:10 a.m, Harbor Room [Room 24], Drake Performance and Event Center)
William Watson, Nancy-Smith Watson and James Tasse

This workshop is an experiential introduction to the work of Feast of Crispian a therapeutic support program that has been utilizing theatrical acting techniques and Shakespeare text in support of post-deployment combat veterans and their traumatic and substance abuse recovery issues.

Graphic Memoir and Rape in Wartime: Only “Collateral Damage”?
(Saturday 11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., New Works Lab, Drake Performance and Event Center)
Julia Watson

The rape of women and children has invariably accompanied the waging of war campaigns, as the epics of Homer and Virgil attest and the history of Western European painting documents. Such events are often sidelined as inevitable and regrettable “costs of war” and glossed as occasions for displaying the range of emotions that great artists are able to depict in heroic scenes.  But since the mid-nineteenth century, visual and audio technologies for documenting human carnage have greatly increased and the world has become accustomed to extensive visual and audio documentation of the horrors of violence in war. We know well that one contemporary American response has been to stop televising daily wartime encounters, and to require journalists to be embedded, their reports monitored.

Now some voices contest the notion of war as both necessary and capable of “success.”  Among the kinds of memoirs that have gained traction are those of women finding new ways to tell stories of rape victimization in war that contest the notion of “collateral damage” and tell different stories of harm against both women victims and the children produced by rape.

Women Atoning for War, from Fiction to Reality
(Saturday 11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., New Works Lab [Room 2060], Drake Performance and Event Center)
Andisheh Ghaderi and Anoosheh Ghaderi

In an effort to find cross-cultural affinities between the women's experiences at war, this presentation attempts to elaborate on the psychological effects of war on female subjects' memory and their post-traumatic lives. The primary focuses would be on the shared conscious and unconscious symbolic atmosphere the post-traumatic subjects create for themselves as a (moral) resistance to the real. This atmosphere manipulates the real and transforms the unbearable to bearable.

Drones, Militarization, and Women in Combat in George Brant’s Grounded, Justin A. Taylor’s Unblinking Eye, and Matt Witten’s Drones
(Saturday 11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., New Works Lab [Room 2060], Drake Performance and Event Center)
Paco José Madden

This paper looks at how drone warfare is portrayed in the theater in the stage plays Grounded by George Brant, Unblinking Eye by Justin A. Taylor, and Drones by Matt Witten.  Each of the plays feature drone pilots as characters.  Specifically, Madden will examine how the militarization of U.S. society influences and is influenced by these works, particularly conceptions of modern warfare in the 21st century, the dangers posed to drone pilots (such as PTSD), and the consequences for society of employing drones in today’s asymmetric borderless global battlefield. 

Remembering Combat through Papermaking
(Saturday 1:30 - 2:45 p.m., New Works Lab [Room 2060], Drake Performance and Event Center)
Maria Faini

In 2007, after six years in the United States Army, Drew Cameron collaborated with artist Drew Matott to form the Combat Paper Project. A performance project, Combat Paper welcomes service members as well as artists, activists, and community members to gather together, eat, listen to music, dance, type a collective journal on an antique typewriter, and destroy military uniforms, pulping them to press into paper.

Faini argues that through its destruction of the uniform, in particular, Combat Paper is performance art that enacts Walter Benjamin’s notion of remembrance. This performance of remembrance keeps “moral injury,” or the primary injury of war according to Dr. Jonathan Shay, open and volatile. In this way, the Combat Paper performance functions as a critique of U.S. militarism and imperialism.

The Tin Faces Project
(Saturday 1:30 - 2:45 p.m., New Works Lab [Room 2060], Drake Performance and Center)
Dr. Joseph Fahey and Kate Shannon

The Tin Faces Project was an original play about American sculptor Anna Coleman Ladd and her work with American and French soldiers of the First World War.  Ladd’s efforts to craft life-like yet paper-thin metal masks to hide these men’s wounds led us to examine broader issues of war, loss, and the healing of soldiers, doctors, nurses, and artists.  This project was supported by a grant from the OSU Mansfield administration which allowed us to utilize materials from the Ladd collection at the Smithsonian, and it was enriched by a brilliant video design by Kate Shannon, Associate Professor of Art as well as striking original plaster molds from Associate Professor of Art John Thrasher.

Oohrah!: Exploring Reintegration through Theatrical Production
(Saturday 1:30 - 2:45 p.m., New Works Lab [Room 2060], Drake Performance and Event Center)
Katherine Skoretz

Bekah Brunstetter’s Oohrah! is a play that explores the return of army veteran Ron through the eyes of his wife, sister-in-law, and pre-teen daughter. The piece creates comedic tension between the masculine image of the soldier protector and the helpless economic situation of veterans out of work, all through the eyes of their women.

This paper describes, from a director’s point of view, the staging and production of Oohrah! as a theatrical alternative to understanding narratives of reintegration in traditional analysis. Rather than a literary exploration, I examine the actions and exercises performed by the actors in addition to the mobile design choices of this student production in order to understand how producing this story shaped and changed my understanding of civilian’s expectations of and relationships to returning veterans.

Exploring the Special Role of Nature in the Recovery From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Saturday, 2:50 - 4:05 p.m., New Works Lab [Room 2060], Drake Performance and Event Center)

James Smith

The intention behind this presentation is to provide a further clarification of the therapeutic role of nature as one of the valuable components for rehabilitation of trauma victims.

The Costs of War at the Juncture between the Horror of Perception and the Pleasure of Expression
(Saturday 2:50 - 4:05 p.m., New Works Lab [Room 2060], Drake Performance and Event Center)
Abderazak Tebbeb

This paper argues that the veteran’s physical and moral injury in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 accommodates comic nexus that break such culturally binary opposition as tragedy/comedy, humor/horror, pleasure/pain, beauty/ugliness, straight/grotesque, and high/low. The paper examines the creation of a contact zone out of the rigid binary opposition of humor and trauma in a selection of passages from Heller’s novel so as to describe what I call syncretic comicality, a method of representation where humor wriggles out of the horrible and the macabre in spheres that are held to be too serious to accommodate humor or play. Central to the syncretic playfulness of the ludicrous/fearful duality in the literary representation of the veteran’s physical and moral injury is the syncretic aesthetic experience that one may derive from the expression even when the perception of the event is awful and horrible.

Excerpted Staged Reading: Dinner with Menelaus
(Sat. 4:10 - 4:40 p.m., New Works Lab [Room 2060], Drake Performance and Event Center)
Stratos Constantinidis

Dinner with Menelaus is a scene from the story of Godless Odyssey which is about a young man (Telemachus) in search of his father (Odysseus) who is a veteran of a war (the Trojan War). Odysseus, after many life-threatening adventures, returns home secretly in 1173 BCE, reunites with his son, and kills a gang of suitors who had occupied his house, ate his livestock, and courted his wife (Penelope). Godless Odyssey has a well-knit plot of great interest that compares Odysseus’ homecoming to the homecoming of other war veterans such as Nestor, Menelaus, and Agamemnon. It also contrasts the personality and circumstances of “loyal” Penelope in Ithaca to those of “treacherous” Clytemnestra in Mycenae and of “unfaithful” Helen in Sparta.

Cast: Edgar Ables, Bryan Arnold, Crystal Feyh, Sue Oakes, Spencer Palombit, John Quigley, Cassie Smith, Alex Ward, Akia Williams, Alex Wilson

Performance: Scrap Heap
(Friday/Saturday 8:00 - 8:45 p.m., Roy Bowen Theatre, Drake Performance and Event Center)
Kevin McClatchy

A Special Forces veteran seeking to become whole again takes the audience on a turbulent, darkly funny, whiplash tour of his experiences. Inspired by a true story, Scrap Heap examines the costs of war through the eyes of one forgotten hero.