Voice of the Warrior covers the winter and spring phases of 2018 Warrior Chorus in 2018, where four previous Warrior Chorus Fellows will take new groups through three phases: readings and education of Greek theater, a new interpretation which these Fellows compose, and then performance.
This blog covers the first day in Johnny's class, set in the apartment of one of the participants...
It was the first night, so there was some expectation of nervousness. Walking into someone’s home, maybe someone you didn’t know, after a few faceless emails and reminders. They file in ones and twos, and it becomes clear many in the room knew at least one face, Johnny's if no other. Sit in groups near people you know, hope that next buzzer is a friend.
No time like the present to begin. What is interesting is Johnny skips the usual introductions, the warm-ups with the names and the personal histories to which everyone seems to have grown accustomed since coming into a new room (and leaving behind the military days where we wore our last names on our shirts). He established some were scholars, some Veterans, some family members, but no distinguishing characteristics made at the outset. Was this to bring the room together, to break down some barrier?
No breathing exercises, no stretching, no noise. Write down your thoughts, free flowing. Now some of the Veterans might start to peek through, being a little less trusting of unstructured activity, and indeed they pause a little more often. Sharing thoughts, only not being asked to share them with each other but with the page, told to put them into a rhythm, NOW being told to share and make it rhyme no less.
Meter and rhyme and the room brightens, starts to have fun. Breathing becomes a little easier. They aren't a team yet; they are still working within their little groups, identifying with those they know. The Korea Veteran sits skeptically in the corner away from the Rutgers kids. The scholar sits quietly observing in the corner. But each gradually begins to share a little more, volunteer a rhyme, laugh or clap at a rhythm, so something is beginning to happen, though they still don't know names or even, really, why they are here.
Midsummer Night's Dream, the final scenes. In other groups, we might delve into why the character doesn't want to see his personal history in battle depicted. Is it PTSD? Is it protecting someone from learning embellishments of his war story? We don't know, and we aren't going to discuss, not now. Here, it is just a mention, an informational call-out from Johnny, and a few interested sighs from the participants who had not put these pieces together until this moment. But despite the interest, we drive on. Would this be brought up again later? We are integrating a new work, a new play, fighting a new battle, so is it likely at least one will take in the concept that the warrior doesn’t always want to talk about the worst days of the old fights? That remains to be seen, since it wasn't overheard in conversation afterwards, but who knows. Everyone needs to digest a moment, and here that’s done with more writing about the loved ones left behind during combat. No one promised a relaxed Friday night of the theater!
Nevertheless, the social atmosphere afterwards is friendly, improved substantially on the nervousness from before we began. Great strides were taken over two hours. Two free-writing assignments, even with very little sharing, and some shared Shakespeare can do that, I suppose. Much can be learned in the observation of putting your thought to paper, then convincing The King to watch your woodland play.
Comments? We invite you to participate in the discussion, share your thoughts and memories, and what you think of what happened in the room!