Voice of the Warrior: From Strangers to Confidantes

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 takes place the third of Jenny's classes, in a mixed performance space in NYC:

How can a room full of strangers one week become a room full of friends a week later, and a room of trusted confidantes a week following? Something about throwing the Veterans and Family Members of Warrior Chorus into a pantheon of strange names, choral narration, and graphic life and death relationships erases not only the lines between Veteran and Civilian, but individual differences, even if for only a few hours. Such lines not easily blurred; this is no easy feat.

In Jenny’s class, a group formed in a line-by-line Greek chorus on the first day, early chatter is of nothing but everything. How is that new fitness class, did you make it out on a run this morning? But it quickly turns in the check-in to something much more real, an exercise of trust and of how each person really feels not just in mood but physically and as a whole person.

With varying experience in acting scattered between the individuals, the emotional connection is somewhat surprising much less the willingness to share it with what amounts to a room of near strangers. What makes it more peculiar is to see it in a room of at least half Veterans. Veterans are not exactly known for sharing emotions, with each other or with those outside their inner circle.

But it is happening; something is blurring the lines.

As the scholar observed, that “something” might be the need for release, and the role it plays in connecting not only the story but also the room. The Greeks had a passion for this release, through war and celebration and theater, food and drink and everything else. There was a great deal of pent-up energy and obligation among the Greeks, and thus they placed a heavy obligation upon finding methods to release that energy for the betterment of their health and society.

As Jenny’s class checks in, encouraged to let go of everything outside the room to be present, the influence of Greek release in theater is evident. Feeling the floor through stocking feet, lying down, standing up, sharing what is happening outside gives the impression that once you take your turn and check in with the others, you don’t have to deal with whatever it was that was weighing you down for the next two hours. Gone is the idle chatter from before class began. The energy level picks up with each stretch and each story, energy that the participants carry into the circle of chairs. Lines of anger are shouted, tears of battle and regret are shed. Each person, Veteran and civilian, has left the world outside for the world of the Greeks and only brought with them the reality of emotion. Past blends with present, lines are blurred.

When the reading ends and the discussion can begin, the connection is even clearer and closer than before. The relationships of the characters and symbolism of the story are broken down and analyzed, but there are also legitimate feelings of frustration or anger with characters acting in self-interest and sympathy for the women caught up and used in the vengeance and retribution of a god. But discussion is relaxed, somehow, even more so than the idle chatter of early in the day. In reading and in discussion, the tragedy has brought them closer to understanding not only the Greek need to release energy but a bit of their own need to do the same. Listening to the rage or sorrow or even joy as another reader hopped up or down from their seat to play a role had a cathartic effect on the room.

And as they each relaxed, the lines further blurred, bringing a shared closeness between the readers. Three weeks from strangers to confidantes: accomplished.

This is the end of Phase I, and the end of the reading for the ancient Greeks. Next our groups will link up with each other, and the other two Veteran-led groups, and begin reading original works inspired from the readings, merging them with their Veteran experiences. Comment below on what you see in the process!