Voice of the Warrior: New Life

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

Theater warm-up is different depending on who leads it, of course. There are days focused on internal settling and being present, and there are days focused on mostly movement exercises, being silly and adopting characters. As the weeks have passed, the movement days seem to become easier for most of the people in the room. More are gradually to be comfortable around each other and around themselves. There are still a few who would clearly rather get to work rather than warm-up, particularly on the movement and improve days, but the adjustment is starting to take shape in the majority of the room.

This is a positive change: after all, adopting a character can be a helpful practice not just in theater. From smiling through job interviews to staying calm on a crowded subway, characters can give everyone a way to think or react in a stronger or more positive way. Improv and characters can establish confidence and reinforce attributes, overall improving interactions and the quality of life for many. This is one of the primary concepts behind reintegrating Veterans learning theater, and as one watches the connections and laughter in the room among near strangers walking around “leading from the knees,” the air of acceptance and confidence is reassuring that the theory is working. No embarrassment, try something new, it’s the character trying it instead of the person so there is no risk.

The groups move into their small rooms for readings, but the character element stays within the participants. Stephan and Jenny are still offering ways to capitalize on character with their mixed group. Though the upcoming production of the work is a reading, readers are encouraged to use the space and create relationships between the characters, to understand the personality and the manner of speaking and adopt the persona. Even the chorus, telling the story of the gods and their transgressions, adopts the tone and the confidence and nature of their assignment to convey the narrative. Becoming engrossed in the reading and in the characters, the techniques are becoming more ingrained with each interaction.

Neath’s group is back together, after the week of rough weather limited connections. But they edited and reviewed in the interim, making progress with the script and with developing characters. The focus is more about the power of words and using language to empower and convince others of right and wrong, conflicts which arose during the reading of the Greek work and translated into the modernized characters. The group speaks of each character and each interaction as though they exist, concerned not only with realism and audience understanding but the overall justifications of how actions would make the character feel and appropriate reactions. The characters are taking on a life of their own.

Meanwhile, Dan’s writing collective now has something to edit both for story and for the characters. They still conceive of the script as a script to be read by someone else instead of within the group, but this majority room of Veterans is clearly putting themselves into the heads of the characters. They see themselves in a piece of each, and use that piece to ask questions about the costs of war, the sacrifices and risks taken, and deeper questions without the fear of offending another. After all, it’s the character asking the question and debating the answer, not so much the Veterans in the room. It empowers the conversation and the individuals.

Johnny and his team is conducting a read-through of their script as well, with the advantage of familiar characters from Greek and Shakespearean theater. But to continue from the millennia old works, each actor has to take on a character and understand where they might go and how a situation might affect the story. Writing contributions will continue, through writing prompts and asking questions and discussion, for one more week.

The power of the character is strong in the Warrior Chorus. Even in groups with characters only a few days or weeks old, they each have life now and also have their own defenders and detractors within the group. The writing is collective as the characters are analyzed, and perhaps more importantly the confidence bred in creating and developing the lives on the pages is transferring to the creators.

To see the new works read in NYC, come to the ART 502 W 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019 on March 28th and 29th with an approximate start time of 6:30pm for public readings. The final reading and ceremony for Warrior Chorus is on 11 April at Federal Hall at 6pm. Follow Aquila on FacebookTwitter, and this blog for updates.