Distinguished Alumnus Max Bush, ’72, an award-winning playwright and director, credits Grand Valley’s role in developing his most recently published play, An Identified Enemy. In fact, a photo of Grand Valley’s theatre students graces the cover, and a listing of all the students and production staff are included in the opening pages.
Bush, whose plays are widely produced on professional, educational and amateur stages across the country and internationally, collaborated with Theatre faculty member Roger Ellis and students. Their efforts enabled Bush to bring the play from a mere idea, to performances on the stage, and finally to the publication of the polished script.
The play tells the personal stories of several Iraq War participants, including the characters Jamie and his girlfriend, Della, another Iraq War vet, who have enrolled in college and are trying to re-adjust to civilian life. Bush took great efforts toward authenticity, working with a company of 10 students in a specially created 50-hour workshop, and with help from U.S. military veterans and civilian contractors with the Defense Department, and the cooperation of local groups, including the U.S. Army Reserve post in Walker. The 17-member student cast in the first staged performances included several veterans.
“This was the most enjoyable and profitable part of the play,” Bush said. “We were able to take a play that was raw, get the students and audiences involved and do rewrites.” The experience also gave students an opportunity to participate in a unique collaboration.
Bush has collaborated with Ellis on other projects, including the launching of “Bard to Go,” Grand Valley’s Shakespeare Festival touring company, which has performed locally and internationally since 1998.
Currently, Bush travels throughout the country publishing and producing his plays, and occasionally directing. “I loved working with students in rehearsal, listening to their ideas, bringing in new things, expanding on their thoughts and clarifying the play,” Bush said.