It’s been a busy month so I’m tardy reporting about our extremely moving MAKE SURE IT’S ME presentation at the VA Medical Center in Manchester on March 2nd! Our star reader was Sean Carrier, who survived seven IED blasts and a plane crash while serving in Iraq. Sean gave a great reading, pushing courageously past any pain or nervousness to share insights from Kate Wenner’s play about combat-related Traumatic Brain Injury. Sean and I were joined on our little “stage” by VA staff members, many of whom were also veterans. The event was organized by VA TBI clinician Nina Romano and social worker Erica Rowe and was introduced by the Medical Center Director Al Montoya, who awarded us all with Director’s coins for bringing this important conversation to the VA. The post-reading discussion lasted nearly 90 minutes and allowed veterans, family members, and service providers to share their observations and feelings about the complicated effects of TBI. As we wound up the event, Nina said they’d love to make MSIM an annual event as part of the March Brain Injury Awareness month. So it’s on my calendar for 2019! If you want to know more about this event, Sean and I were interviewed by the marvelous Peter Biello, who is the NHPR anchor for “All Things Considered.” You can listen to that interview or read the transcript here. Stay tuned for more MSIM news . . . plans are in the works to return to the Manchester Vet Center in September.
Last Thursday I was pleased to return to the Manchester Vet Center in Hooksett for the third year in a row to present excerpts from Kate Wenner’s MAKE SURE IT’S ME read by veterans and Vet Center Staff. Once again, Vet Center counselor and coordinator of this event Mearlene Filkins made me warmly welcome and lined up a great group of readers. Colleen Moriarty, director of the Vet Center, even stepped in to read as a last-minute replacement and knocked it out of the park! We were honored to have Don, a Vietnam veteran, return for his third year in a row, as well as some new faces in the group. After the presentation and some snacks, Manchester VA TBI clinicians Sherry Thrasher and Nina Romano were on hand, along with a social worker named Erica, to kick off the post-presentation talk back. This script continues to yield great conversations, increase awareness of military-related TBI, and encourage military families to seek support from a variety of sources across the state. Thanks to all the readers, to Mearlene, Colleen, Sherry and Nina for making it happen. And thanks once again to the playwright, Kate Wenner, for giving us the words knit together from her interviews with veterans, caregivers and clinicians dealing with TBI. Without these words, the growing conversation would not be possible. Love to all!
It’s officially autumn, but my summer was pretty busy with theatre! Last spring I was asked to direct Mike Kimball’s new play, PATIENCE BOSTON, a historical drama set in York, Maine and based on the lives (and deaths) of real people. PB tells the story of a Native American servant woman who claimed to have killed a child and demanded to be hung for the crime. But after she was sentenced, it was discovered that she was pregnant, so the Sheriff and his wife, as well as Pastors Samuel and Joseph Moody, were charged with caring for her until the baby was born–and then executing her.
We rehearsed throughout the summer, working around folks’ vacations and other shows, and opened on September 15th at the Players’ Ring in Portsmouth. The show is going extremely well and will close on October 1. I’m immensely proud of the playwright, the cast (Liz Locke, David Houlden, Charles Bradley, Pam Battin-Sacks, Greg Chabot, Whitney Smith, Paul Benford-Bruce and Steve Sacks) and our dear stage manager, Deb Barry and board operator, Kate Quisumbing. We also had impeccable stage design by D. Cary Wendell, lighting by John Stewart, costumes by Barbara Newton, and sound design by the impeccable Mike Kimball himself! Scroll down for more great images from PATIENCE BOSTON.
2016 has been a busy year, so busy that I haven’t been writing on this blog too much. Most of the work I have been doing involves upcoming events supporting veterans and their families. I’m thrilled to say that my traveling version of MAKE SURE IT’S ME will return to the Manchester Vet Center on September 29th. I will be joined there by a cast of 5 veterans to read dramatic scenes from Kate Wenner’s play, as well as VA Manchester clinicians to help me address questions about Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD. Then, on October 20th I will take it to UNH, where my readers will be members of the Student Armed Forces Association, joined by some Theatre majors. That promises to be a winning combination! The research and treatment options for TBI and PTSD keep evolving, so whenever I pull this presentation out I retool my framing material to reflect recent developments. It’s also extremely fun for me to work with the coordinators and readers as different venues, as well as to meet the audiences and mediate the conversation on performance day. So I’m looking forward to both of those events.
I have also had the honor of serving as Humanities Expert for Community Stories: Soldiers Home & Away, a nine-week event series celebrating, commemorating and supporting veterans and military families across 8 libraries in Southern NH, as well as Timberlane School District. The event series runs September 16 through November 12. My duties to this project have included helping the amazing group of library officials on the committee to write the grant proposal for the New Hampshire Humanities (which was successful, thank you NHH!); helping to identify presenters and keep a “humanities” angle across the event series; and I’ll be contributing to the “after-action” report to NHH about how Community Stories fulfilled its mission. I am also involved in three of the events: I will present a brand new presentation, “Staging War: Veterans’ Voices in Post-9/11 Theatre” at the Plaistow Public Library on October 4; I will mediate a book discussion of “Either the Beginning or the End of the World” will the glorious author Terry Farish on October 27th in Hampstead; and I will be co-presenting the final keynote presentation on November 12th, “War Trauma: A Changing Story”, with neurologist Dr. James Whitlock. That final presentation will include some readings from MSIM, aided by veteran and former Vet Center counselor Al Porsche.
So that’s a lot of exciting work I’ve been putting together, with fantastic and inspiring collaborators.
I have also been invited to do several more ongoing projects: The NHH Humanities To Go program has selected my new presentation for their catalog. In response to their feedback, the title is slightly different from the one in Community Stories, but it will be effectively the same format: “Speaking of War: How Theatre Gives Voice to Combat Veterans.” (It’s always tricky to figure out appealing titles.) Once the presentation is in the catalog, it remains to be seen if anyone wants me to bring it to their library or meeting hall. So stay tuned!
I have also been hired as an actor by PowerPlay Interactive Development. PowerPlay was founded by UNH Theatre Department Chair David Kaye. It is a UNH sponsored business that uses Applied Theatre techniques to address issues like corporate culture, gender bias, harassment, and diversity for clients who include university departments, nonprofits and corporations. So far, I have worked on four improv-based workshops for Easter Seals in Manchester; in November, I will be traveling to the University of Virginia to present a combination of scripted material and improv addressing biases and potential conflicts in faculty hiring. This is extremely challenging, fascinating work! I am learning a lot and, once again, working with a great group of people that includes David Kaye, CJ Lewis and Susan Poulin.
Lastly for now, I am pleased to have been cast in New Hampshire Theatre Project‘s winter show, METAMORPHOSES, directed by Genevieve Aichele. Rehearsals begin in November. Phew, that’s a lot!!!
In the meantime, my Board work for HAVEN is ongoing, so don’t be surprised if I tap your shoulder in a fundraising campaign. Best wishes to all as we move into Autumn!
Last Thursday, October 8th, a group of veterans helped me present my traveling version of Kate Wenner’s MAKE SURE IT’S ME at the Manchester Vet Center in Hooksett, NH. With the help of counselor Mearlene Filkins, who joined me in reading the educational material about Traumatic Brain Injury, and the coordination of Team Leader Colleen Moriarty, we presented to a group of about fifty in the Vet Center’s welcoming, well-appointed conference room.
This was my second time using the model of directing a group of volunteer readers nominated by the venue itself. The first time my readers were members of the student veterans’ group at the campus of Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA. This time, Mearlene invited community members who attend the Manchester Vet Center regularly for various kinds of support to step up and share their time and talents by acting in this reading. I was blown away by the intelligence and emotional courage of these readers. These two men and two women, who clearly had put their hearts, minds and bodies on the line in service to their country, were serving again by spreading the word about the effects of TBI on veterans and their families. The audience was extremely responsive to their portrayals of injured veterans and their struggling caregivers. Maybe it was the dueling apple crisps baked by two community members and enjoyed during intermission, but I swear the audience did not want to leave! Many observations and questions were shared during a talkback with Susan Burns, Nina Romano, and Sherry Thrasher, all clinicians from the Manchester VA Medical Center with expertise in treating TBIs. We were even able to connect an audience member on the spot with resources for TBI screening. Thanks again to Colleen, Mearlene and all the staff at the Vet Center for making this event possible.
As always with the MSIM project, I was thrilled and humbled by this experience. There was a lot of support in the room for more MSIM programming, so stay tuned for news as I follow up with my new contacts and continue to spread the word. For more information on the history of the project, or to find resources, visit the MSIM home page.
I’m delighted to bring the MSIM traveling presentation to the Manchester Vet Center on October 8th at 2 pm! A team of veterans will read the dramatic roles and we’ll have a talkback with clinicians from the VA’s TBI clinic. Thanks to Colleen Moriarty and Mearlene Filkins for bringing me and assembling the team. Admission is free but seating is limited, so RSVP by September 30 to Selena.firstname.lastname@example.org!
Well, the cast and crew of Duck and Cover rocked audiences during opening weekend! In the midst of scorching temperatures and electric fans, Kim, Shawn, David, Jim, Alan and Michael elicited applause, cheers and even some appreciative catcalls and standing ovations. Here’s what the critics had to say:
Catch the show for the next two weekends, we close on September 20th! Visit playersring.org for details!
This week has been hot hot hot, especially in the Player’s Ring in Portsmouth, which has a huge heart but no air conditioning! As we’ve prepared for tonight’s opening of Mike Kimball’s Duck and Cover, we’ve been working a number of oscillating fans into the theatre experience. We’ve also had to all pitch in to make the set happen. I’m not so effective with carpentry so I was doing set dressing acquisition much of the week, but finally our set feels like a little home. Congrats and thanks to Mike and his carpenter pal Alan, to Joe Dominguez for helping build, and to Brett Reis, our lighting designer, for also playing Mr. Fixit throughout the week. Stage manager extraordinaire Kate Quisumbing also wrangled numerous props, all while learning to navigate an unfamiliar CD player and new computerized light board. Now we’re ready to watch the actors do their thing! See you at the Ring!
Rehearsals for DUCK AND COVER are a total hoot and the show opens at Players’ Ring on September 4! Love these talented folks, plus my brilliant playwright Mike Kimball and couldn’t-do-without-her Stage Manager Kate Quisumbing. Pictured below, clockwise from top left: Shawn Crapo, Jim Manclark, Kim Holliday, Alan White, Michael Stailey and David Sullivan. Photo by Mike Kimball. Visit PlayersRing.org for reservations.