Veteran’s Project: Leaving Theater





Underlying an emotionally riveting performance by actors, both Veterans and civilians, men and women, the key question is how do you (as a Veteran) want to be understood by those who seek to help or bridge that unique experience for those who served, and society, who they pledged to protect.


On a recent Tuesday afternoon, “The Veterans Project”, a two hour performance produced by the Lucid Body Lab, was performed at VA’s Manhattan campus. The action initially involved several stylized combat encounters, accompanied by sound effects. These established a background for a scene in a bar in which a soldier with PTSD is provoked to blows and then subdued and arrested by police.  In other scenes, this soldier and others are interviewed by actors playing police officers and VA staff.  In several sequences, Veterans are portrayed having difficulty with survivor’s guilt and they are seen abusing medication. Courage, anxiety and humor are also portrayed.  A producer then turns to the audience asking for their reaction to the interactions that have just been performed. Audience members who express a strong reaction are invited to join the performance and replay the scene of a VA intake interview, replaying it in a manner they believe would improve the scenario from the point of better communication with a Veteran patient.


When audience members enacted interactions with Veterans, they expressed much more interest and compassion than appeared in the original scene.  They took their time to convince the Veteran of their concern and availability to assist in referring them to mental health or medical care.


The production was hosted by John Tatarakis, RN, MS, MPH, Local Recovery Coordinator and Peter Cole, Chief of Learning Resources.  Fay Simpson, producer of “The Veterans Project” and an acting teacher at NYU said, “The actors use a method called Lucid Body System to research and embody the characteristics of  a Veteran and connect with civilians to gain greater mutual understanding.”


Tatarakis and Cole were very pleased that the performance was extremely well attended and that the audience of Veterans, Staff and community members was very much engaged in the opportunity to participate.  As Anthony Williams, Veterans Advocacy Council Chair commented, “Please thank them and let them know how the Veterans really appreciated what they were portraying. It was great, fantastic and down to earth.”


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