Women at war
Written by By RTE member Megan Carney
Directed by RTE member Tara Mallen
A World Premiere
Featuring RTE member Mary Cross
With Rengin Altay, Danielle Davis, Susan Gaspar, Brittani Green, Cynthia Hines, Krystel McNeil, Paula Ramirez, and Charlita Williams
November 5 – December 6, 2014
A debate rages over whether females should serve on the frontlines, yet more women are being sent into active combat zones than ever before. This new theatrical work is woven from years of research and first-person interviews with women who have laid their lives on these lines and returned from deployment to re-enter civilian life.
Background of WOMEN AT WAR:
In 2011, Rivendell recognized an important need in the community strongly related to its mission and began to address this need. Today’s American military is nearly 15% female (2013, Department of Defense), ranging from 7% of Marines to 19% of the Air Force and Reserves. In addition, there are over 1.8 million female U.S. veterans. However, a male perspective has dominated the images and tales of war shared in books, movies, theater and elsewhere. This is a disservice to female military personnel and veterans and it distorts our shared understanding of history and armed conflict.
RTE has since forged relationships with veteran service organizations including the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs, Student Veteran’s Centers at UIC and Kennedy-King College, Illinois Health and Disability Advocates, Pritzker Military Library, and VetCAT (Veterans Creative Arts Therapy). These partners helped RTE connect with over 70 female veterans and collect 26 personal interviews. The result of this work is WOMEN AT WAR, a devised piece crafted from the rich, diverse and complex stories of women during and following military service.
In 2012 RTE secured a $25,000 grant from the Chicago Community Trust to create a partnership with VetCAT. With this funding, RTE led an examination of the roles of American women in the shifting landscape of the military and WOMEN AT WAR was born. On November 21, 2013, RTE premiered a staged reading of WOMEN AT WAR at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The evening was an overwhelming success and the standing-room-only crowd of 160 people embraced the thought-provoking work. Following the performance, Megan Carney, RTE Ensemble Member and Director of the Gender & Sexuality Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, led the audience in a vital, energetic conversation with a panel of four female veterans and one military service representative.
In 2014 Rivendell Theatre Ensemble mounted a full-scale production of WOMEN AT WAR in our home theatre in Edgewater, from November 5 through December 6. As with our 2013 staged reading, an important component will be our Saturday Town Hall Discussion Series–dialogues including the audience and guest panelists which will follow the Saturday 4 PM matinee performances. These discussions not only help audience members process the piece, but they also spark comments such as “I didn’t even think of myself as a veteran” to “How can we ensure greater equity in military honors and storytelling?” Each week will feature a theme from the play. We regard these conversations as a critical component of changing the need from which WOMEN AT WAR was born.
Sample Veteran Interview Quotes:
You hear people say, “I felt this patriotic duty.” For me it was like, No, I just wanted to get out the neighborhood.
At night when all the lights are out and everyone is supposed to be sleeping you’ll hear little whimpers here, sobs there…But the only tears I cried in boot camp (were) when I had gotten a letter from my Dad and he was telling me he was proud of me.
This whole concept that being strong means you have to, you know, deal with it. Later I realized that’s not really what being strong means.
I kept thinking if I could just keep my mouth shut and do what they tell me, I’ll be fine, but I wasn’t really good at that.
We invite audiences to dive a little deeper and join in on vital post-show conversations sparked by the play’s themes.
Themes for the discussions include:
— Out of the Shadows: Life for Lesbian and Bisexual Females in the Military Since the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’
— Family Connections: Choices Related to Parenting and Family Sustainability
— The New GI Bill: Female Veteran Experiences in Higher Education
— Looking the Part: Policies for Female Military Uniforms and Hairstyles
— Silent No More: Debate Regarding Legal Jurisdiction and Accountability Related to Military Sexual Assault