Quote of the Day: Always question your government. Jerry, Vietnam War Veteran, speaking at the post-play discussion of The Things They Carried, streaming now through Nov. 22, 2020, through the History Theatre in St. Paul, MN.
I’ve only read an excerpt/short story of The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I have his book, but haven’t read it, yet. Jim Stowell has adapted O’Brien’s work for the stage in a one man show, starring Pearce Bunting, directed by Ron Peluso. His performance is mesmerizing, even as I was watching a recording of it streaming into my living room. It was almost like being in the theater watching him perform. The History Theatre recorded this performance from their February 2017 production. It’s a good choice to air on Veteran’s Day and the week following. O’Brien describes the angst of being drafted into the Vietnam War, his experiences, and the moment of decision that could have sent him on another path. The scene in the boat with the older man had me riveted to the screen. I could “see” the boat, the water, and feel O’Brien’s pain as he considered his options. Bunting had the audience at the theatre in 2017, and me in my living room this past weekend, breathless.
I’m amazed how the imagination works. The set was so simple, a desk, a typewriter, a thermos, some papers, a chair, and a man with a story. Each movement enhanced the story. I could see, hear, and feel the powerful moments in this play, the fear in the trenches, the rain, the river, that moment when he lost his friend and fellow soldier. That’s the power of storytelling and live theater.
I’m glad that they included the post-play discussion in the recording/streaming. A man named Jerry, a Vietnam War Vet, was there along with Pearce Bunting, to talk about the war, the soldiers’ experience, and the PTSD. Jerry had come forward a few years ago when the History Theatre was looking for a Vietnam War Vet to tell his story, and they turned that into a play called 1968. No one really likes to talk about war. That’s the impression I’ve always gotten. Who wants to relive those horrors? They don’t want to give those grim images and experiences to loved ones. But, it’s important to tell your story, and in doing so, you might help someone else. Jerry said he came forward to honor those who lost their lives, and the ones who continue the fight. So many who survived the war, are now losing their lives to suicide. He’s here to say, “You’re not alone. Talk about it. Get help.”
This production is well worth your time and the few dollars they’re asking for to see it (I bought my own ticket. This was not a press invite.). It’s also a time to Give to the Max to any charity or performing arts program of your choice. The History Theatre does a tremendous job of telling stories of people from various backgrounds and experiences. I am always impressed by what they produce, and learn a little something, too.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Write about a traumatic experience, or write down the stories of someone you know who has gone to battle or served their country.