This past weekend a small theatre group transformed the First Churches in downtown Northampton to present "The Lonely Soldier Project."
One in three females serving in the military are sexually assaulted and often the perpetrators are the very people the women are supposed to report to, leading them to keep quiet and let the assault go unreported. With all the recent media around these assaults the statistics have climbed and according the Pentagon's recent release the number of report have risen by 46%.immersive theatre production using actual testimonies of females who served and were harassed in the military. The play "The Lonely Soldier Monologues" was written by author Helen Benedict, based on her book "Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Soldiers".
The theatre production presented in accordance with the weekend of Veteran's Day was not one that took much political standpoint for or against the military (though some of the women specifically address the war in the middle east as problematic) and was performed in a way that forced the audience to take an active role in the production rather than sit passively and listen.
The production started in the parlor room much like an AA meeting might go; nametags, cider, donuts, comfy chairs. But when one girl starts speaking the room hushes and the performance begins. Each performance the audience was packed to the rooms' capacity and confusion often flashed across the audiences' faces as they realize they might have signed on for a one-hour standing-room-only living room theatre piece, but that confusion is quickly shaped into curiosity when the doors open to reveal the hall and audience is ushered in for what becomes a highly imaginative physical theatre experience. In the remaining 45 minutes of the show the audience is free to move around the room, free to choose where they sit and the performers are often looking directly at the audience as they speak.
There was no "4th wall" in this piece, though perhaps there exists a 4th wall between all of us and the survivors of sexual harassment until we as a country step up to defend them.
I'm choosing not to share the stories these women shared because they are much deserving of you searching them out yourself. Perhaps you don't even really need to read them to know in your heart of hearts that this is an issue worth your time.
Here are some links you can follow to seek more information, sign petitions and find out what is happening in the Pioneer Valley that supports our troops.
- Protect Our Defenders: http://action.protectourdefenders.com/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=11731
- Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013: http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th/house-bill/2016
- Veteran's Education Project: http://vetsed.org/
- Soldier On: http://www.wesoldieron.org/
- Helen Benedict's work: http://www.helenbenedict.com/
The Lonely Soldier Project was directed by Talya Kingston, Troy David Mercier and Robyn Spateholts with performances by Tiahna Harris, Hala Lord, Brianna Sloane,
Trenda Loftin, and Robyn Spateholts.
Photo by Troy David Mercier