Voice of the Warrior: Enough of the Committee Already

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 is the second session of Phase II, where the four groups review and edit the Veteran-written interpretations of the ancient Greek works.

Warm-up today is led courtesy of Stephan and his Shitty Committee™ (not really trademarked, though probably should be). What is the Shitty Committee? Being both a Veteran and an actor, Stephan frequently talks about his Committee during his classes and his work. The Committee is the little (or sometimes not so little) voice in all of our heads critiquing the things we do, the way we talk or walk or think or act. They judge everything we do and tell us others are as well. We all know this Committee, whatever we call it, and Stephan’s goal in most of his work is to be sure we acknowledge its existence so we can tell it exactly where it can shove its opinion.

It’s a good reminder for the room as they walk around the room in their efforts to get in tune with the present for the coming few hours of readings. The movement is a little different than lying down on the floor as it was during the week before, and some of the actions are designed to make the participants a bit uncomfortable. But the reminder is to adapt, to tune out the Committee, and to remember that the theater is different from the military in that it is safe: “Usually nobody dies, even on the worst day of theater.” Hesitant laughs from about half of the room at that one, and slowly they begin to adjust.

It’s a much smaller group tonight, probably because of the lousy and howling weather. They are trickling in gradually, joining the movement and catching up to the concepts of becoming uncomfortable in order to gain comfort. The Veterans in the room, even the latecomers, seem to make the switch a little slower than those with a strong theater background but once the mental switch is made the difference is more noticeable in the Veterans. A careful observer can identify when the Veteran releases the Committee’s voice, and the tension disappears from the shoulders or a step turns from military stiffness to confidence in action.

As the groups break out to their individual rooms, adapt and overcome is the name of the game. How different the plays are, too, born in isolation from each other with different origins, different opinions and ideas, different creative perspective, and now different processes to write and edit. Today there are still more challenges, with missing members from the weather, steadily adjusting scripts with regular input. The confidence built during the first hour strengthens the members to be open during the exhausting edits.

Jenny adapts to the icy roads with a call-in to her group, but openly admits she wouldn’t miss the feedback on her script for the world. She also admits her Committee has been rather loud on her interpretation, and the group will help in gaining perspective. Her mixed group of Veterans and civilians has formed cohesively, allowing for openness and opinions to be shared.

Meanwhile, Dan’s group of writers is in edit mode but yet also still collectively pooling ideas. A few wrote contributing sections, which are now put together as scenes of the same act. They took advantage of the fact that each of them are writers and have thoughts and impressions. Adapting to the group persona, they eschewed a single writer concept and opted to capitalize on strengths even if it meant lengthier debates about characters and scene development.

Johnny’s modernization is yet another concept, combining Shakespeare and the Greeks. There is a lot of note-taking, edits and prep and thought with a professional air, one of concentration, filling the room instead of the debate in Dan’s or the laughter and occasional hopping on chairs in Jenny’s. The debate focuses on the play finding a a real idea of what is right, even though that isn’t always what happens in the Greek myths. Edits are humanizing of the characters, the plot, and even of the concept of war.

The process is beginning to fall into place. The leaders want the feedback and the participant noise and the input. It is a case of these observations that drives some of the writing. Most importantly, the noise silences the internal Committees for something much more real: the cohesion of group creativity and the constructive nature of development.

To see the new works read in NYC, stay tuned! March 28th and 29th, as well as April 11th, offer opportunities for public readings. Follow Aquila on Facebook, Twitter, and this blog for updates.