GVSU THEATRE TO DEVELOP A NEW PLAY ON THE IRAQ CONFLICT
During the winter semester of 2012, GVSUs Theatre program will host the playwright Max Bush as artist-in-residence to develop a new play with Grand Valley students dealing with the Iraq conflict. Tentatively titled AN IDENTIFIED ENEMY, the play will explore issues of combat stress, rendition of prisoners, and post-combat cultural readjustment among Iraq war veterans. Two staged readings, free to the public, have been scheduled in the Universitys main theatre on February 25 and 26.
Public performances of the reading will be:
Saturday, Feb. 25 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 26 2:00 p.m.
Louis Armstrong Theatre, Allendale Campus
Admission is free but due to limited seating, a ticket will be required. Stop by or call the Louis Armstrong box office (616-331-2300) to obtain a free ticket.
Sign up for the workshop is now available at the Louis Armstrong Box Office in person or by calling 616-331-2300. Space is limited to the first 25 and all participants must be committed to all of the workshop's sessions:
Feb. 18 & 19 10:00am to 6:00pm (PAC 1506)
Feb. 20 - 24 6:00pm to 10:00pm (LAT)
Feb. 25 10:00am to 8:30pm (LAT)
Feb. 26 1:00pm to 4:00pm (LAT)
The workshop will launch in mid-February when Bush will begin working with 20 - 30 students on developing the play. Student actors, designers, dramaturgs, and writers will collaborate with Bush in a workshop setting to develop the dialog, character interactions and scene structure of the new play. GVSUs Theatre program has optioned the finished script for a possible fully staged production during the 2012 - 2013 theatre season.
Workshops leading to staged readings are the customary procedure for developing plays in the United States. Actors and other artists relish the opportunity to make original and creative contributions to an emerging play, free of prior interpretations by previous productions and critical opinions. Playwrights also enjoy the opportunity of hearing their dialog spoken by trained actors, and watching the plot unfold in such workshops. The staged reading with actors in minimal costumes and working on a minimal set with scripts-in-hand, permits the writer to introduce dialog changes as the work progresses, even up to the day of public performance.
AN IDENTIFIED ENEMY tells the story of two Michigan veterans of the Iraqi conflict, Jamie and Della. Recently returned from Iraq, the two are enrolled in college and desperately trying to adjust to civilian life and put their war experience behind them. The plot revolves around Jamies struggle to discover the whereabouts of an Iraqi friend, Jalil, whom he believes saved his life one afternoon. Jamie suffers flashbacks to his recent combat experiences, recalling scenes of battle and the last time he saw Jalil who was arrested by CIA operatives and then mysteriously disappeared after Jamie returned Stateside. The 13-member cast includes members of Jalils family, soldiers in Jamies unit, insurgents, FBI and CIA agents, and civilian contractors, all of whom play different roles in the unfolding story.
Bush will work not only with actors, but also with other students keenly interested in production work and artistic direction. He has lined-up several veterans of the Iraq conflict to work with the students, as well as civilians who served the military in Iraq. GVSU directing students will serve as assistant directors to observe Bushs methods and assist in rehearsals. Student dramaturgs will assist with research, and designers will plan the lighting, as well as the minimal settings and costumes necessary for the staged reading.
Max Bush is a freelance playwright and director from Hamilton, Michigan, whose plays have been widely produced on professional, educational and amateur stages across the country. He has won numerous awards for his two dozen published plays including the Distinguished Play award from the American Association of Theatre and Education, the IUPUI National Playwriting Competition, and Individual Artist grants from the Michigan Council for the Arts. His work has been staged at Chicagos Goodman Theatre, the Emmy Gifford Theatre (Omaha), Karamu House (Cleveland), the Hartford Childrens Theatre and others. Local audiences may recognize his work from productions at Grand Rapids Community Circle Theatre, Central Michigan University, the Holland Community Theatre, and elsewhere. A graduate of Grand Valley State and Michigan State Universities, Maxs earlier play THE CRYSTAL, received its American premiere in GVSUs Allendale Theatre twelve years ago.
An special preview meeting has been scheduled in Grand Valleys Performing Arts Center on November 18 from 4 - 6 p.m. Students and others interested in participating in the project will be able to meet Bush and hear a read-through of the working script, and learn more details about the planned workshop in February. Faculty coordinator of the project is Dr. Roger Ellis, whose twelve anthologies of new American and international plays are widely used in schools and colleges across the country.
November 9 - 17, 2012
Set in war-torn Baghdad and the United States, ex-serviceman Jamie Foster struggles to uncover the fate of a young Iraqi man who befriended him and saved his life--only to have been later kidnapped and disappeared by agents of U.S. intelligence. The world premiere of a searing new play about the war on terror, by national award-winning author Max Bush.
November 9, 10, 15 & 16 . . . . . . . . 7:30 p.m.
November 11 & 17 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2:00 p.m.
Tickets range from $12.00 to $6.00 and available starting August 20.
Fri. 11/9 7:30 Opening Might & Free Catered Reception Following
Sat. 11/10 7:30 Performance
Sun. 11/11 2:00 Performance Followed by Experts Panel/Audience Discussion
Thu. 11/15 7:30 Performance Followed by Experts Panel/Audience Discussion
Fri. 11/16 7:30 Performance
Sat. 11/17 2:00 Closing Performance
An Identified Enemy tells the story of Jamie Foster, an Iraqi war veteran who has recently returned to civilian life, as he desperately tries to locate a young Iraqi man who befriended him in Baghdad. Jamie and his girlfriend Della, another Iraqi vet, have enrolled in college and are trying to re-adjust to civilian life; but Jamie spends most of his time worrying about his Iraqi friend, Jalil, who saved his life in Baghdad from an IED explosion. Jamie was never certain whether or not Jalil knew the bomb had been planted. Before Jamie left Baghdad, Jalil was arrested by authorities and then kidnapped by American intelligence officers who disappeared him from his family and from Baghdad altogether. Della tries to encourage Jamie to move on and put the war behind him, but the question of rendition (kidnapping foreign nationals for torture and interrogation) gnaws at Jamie, and is never completely answered. The story is set in Baghdad and Michigan, and the characters include soldiers, Iraqi men and women, civilian contractors, prison officials, intelligence officers, translators and others.
This play argues strongly for cultural understanding and tolerance in the United States as we wrestle with issues of racial profiling, cultural imperialism, diversity and inclusion. It also appeals to mideastern cultures for greater understanding of cultural issues among their own people who come into contact with westerners involved in their regional conflicts. For example, the central character Jamie Foster, is mocked by his fellow infantrymen because he befriends an young Iraqi man and his sister; racial epithets, sexual harassment and ethnic slurs are woven into the fabric of the plays dialog. At the same time, the play presents videotaped interviews from Al Jazeera news archives that display the same sort of hatred and cultural intolerance towards westerners and their defense of basic human rights for all peoples.
This project is a play production by the Theatre program in the School of Communications. In 2011, the program commissioned a professional playwright, Max Bush, to write a new play on the current Iraq conflict. Mr. Bush, a Distinguished Alumnus of GVSU, developed the script and met with students in the fall & winter semesters of 2011, leading them in a 50-hour playwriting workshop. In February 2012 the preliminary version of An Identified Enemy was presented in the Performing Arts Center for two public performances as a staged reading; the drama faculty & staff then decided to add the play to its 2012-2013 theatre season as a fully-staged production.
Since 1993, the fall stage production following the annual Shakespeare Festival has featured a drama focusing on cultural diversity & inclusion, and An Identified Enemy was specifically chosen by the Theatre Faculty as an appropriate show for this purpose. In fact, GVSU is the only University theatre program in Michigan making this annual commitment to produce plays dealing with themes of social justice. Recent scripts produced in this context at GVSU have focused upon issues of gender equality, racism, religious discrimination and similar topics. Their subjects have dealt with the persecution of dissidents in modern China, the exploitation of women workers in the United States, the struggles of Korean immigrants to assimilate into American society, the marginalization of tribal peoples and other issues. GVSU theatre students have been recognized for the quality of their work by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Awards (for the disappeared people of Argentina); and have worked on social issues dramas with national playwrights-of-color brought to campus for temporary residencies to coach students in their roles & interpretation.
This week, in the span of more than 40 hours worth of workshops, Grand Valley State University alumnus and playwright Max Bush worked to further develop his play An Identified Enemy with a selected group of students.
The final play will be revealed in two staged readings at the Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Performing Arts Center in Allendale, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Bush wrote An Identified Enemy after receiving an invite from GVSU theater professor Roger Ellis, to help students learn the full process of developing a play, while also creating an entertaining and publishable work of art.
If (students) are interested in the theater and how plays are developed, because this is the first time this play will be in rehearsal, if they are interested in the theater in any way, this is how we create plays, Bush said. And it can open their eyes to how things are done and just how involved rewrites are, and just how collaborative the playwriting process is.
Ellis said the opportunity is a marriage made in Heaven because of the talent and experience Bush brings to students, while still staying connected to GVSU.
It celebrates Grand Valley by bringing a distinguished alumnus back to do his work here in the arts area, Bush said. Its very important to have a major national playwright in-residence and the play will be published eventually (and) Grand Valleys name with be concerned with it.
The play is about Iraq war veterans that return home from tours overseas and have to assimilate back into society. It follows several characters, including a woman, and sheds light on the issues they face, like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Along with entertaining audiences, the play will inform people that do not have a direct connection to the war, or have trouble keeping up on current events, however that is not the main goal of it, Bush said.
Ellis said the politics and information included provides a different and more intimate angle on the war than what is usually presented in news programs.
The war nowadays and the military nowadays are very removed from the lives of most people in the United States because there's no compulsory military service, Ellis said. I think the average student or faculty member who hasnt any direct contact with Iraq or what a wartime situation is, would find this very unusual play, very insightful and something that can complement what we hear about in the news or the radio.
He said students viewing the play will be stimulated to learn more about the cultural conflict with the Islamic world and hopefully they will realize some of the complexity of the problem of human relationship that go on in Iraq and with the military.
Because the play focuses on a current political issue, students from several different majors who normally wouldn't be interested in theater have a chance to get involved, Bush said.
This play could involve pre-law, the journalism department, the political science department, as well as the theater department, Bush said.
After the staged readings, a vote will determine if it is worthy of becoming the Fall 2012 production. Ellis doesn't doubt that it will be a widely accepted play.
The GVSU students helping Bush will be attributed on the final published version, which brings them recognition to help with future careers.
Both shows are free to the public. For more information about Max Bush and An Identified Enemy, visit www.gvsu.edu/theatre.