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New fall play, My Soldiers, deals with hard issues

Eastern’s theater department has the privilege of being the first company to hold a production of My Soldiers. A reading of the play, directed and produced by Mark Hallen, was held in Oshkosh, Wis. in March, but this will be the first full production.

“It will be a rather surprising event for some people,” said Richard Kalinoski, resident playwright at University of Wisconsin OshKosh, who wrote My Soldiers. “There will be some shocking moments on stage.”

The play centers on a female medic named Angi Busko who returns home after serving in Iraq.  She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and there is a “struggle for this young woman to achieve some equilibrium in her life,” Kalinoski said.

Inspiration for this play came to Kalinoski he after interviewed six American soldiers.
“One of them stood out,” Kalinoski said, referring to a medic from northern Minnesota. “She had an unusual story. She had disobeyed direct orders from her captain.” The medic treated an Iraqi civilian when she was told not to.

According to Kalinoski, parts of the production are “rather serious,” but there are several comic moments as well. 

“The main character is what people call a ‘character,'” Kalinoski said. “She is sort of outrageous.”

The main character, Angi, is played by senior Kaylee Goodwin. 

“(Angi) is seen by others as an American hero because she got a medal,” Goodwin said, but she explained that the others do not understand what Angi has seen and experienced in Iraq.

In Iraq, Angi becomes friends with a group of soldiers and romantically involved with a lieutenant, played by senior John Schultz.  However, when she returns home, “she hasn’t had any injuries, but she has lost some of her soldiers,” Kalinoski said.

One of Angi’s therapists is played by Dr. Betsy Morgan, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who, according to Goodwin, is “perfect for the role.”

Goodwin has been working with this play since August when she first read the script with other actors.  She described the role as “a lot to take on emotionally.”

“I have an obligation as Angi to make it as real as possible that she has PTSD,” Goodwin said. “I don’t want to be mocking somebody with it.”

According to Hallen, everyone involved in the production has been striving to make it as accurate and as effective as possible. 

“The first time you do the production of a play, you have to problem-solve and work things out,” Hallen said. He explained that, while some lines sound good when one reads the script, they may sound less natural when actors speak them.  For this reason, the Eastern cast and crew have been working in collaboration with Kalinoski to rewrite sections of the script.

“We get to do it first, which is exciting,” Hallen said.  The adjustments that are made to the script will be passed on to other theaters that will hold the production, including the Detroit Repertory Theatre in June 2010.

In addition to watching several documentaries about American soldiers in Iraq, Hallen and the cast members have studied a guide to PTSD for veterans, family members, friends and therapists written by Patience Mason called, “Home from War.”

According to Hallen, they “used this as basic research to understand what Angi was going through.”

 “I feel really attached (to Angi),” Goodwin said. “And I feel an obligation to her and to get her story across.”

 

 

The structure of My Soldiers is similar to that of The Wizard of Oz. Many of the actors play two characters in the play–some characters Angi meets in Iraq are portrayed by the same actors that play people back home.  According to Mark Hallen, “If you watch The Wizard of Oz right after, you might see a lot of similarities.”

 

Opening Veterans’ Day
Nov. 11 – Nov. 14  at 8 p.m.
Nov. 15 matinee, 3 p.m.

 

 

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