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Shakespeare with Veterans for suicide prevention

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Kentucky Shakespeare Veterans performing “Henry V.”

Kentucky Shakespeare Veterans performing “Henry V.”

Jose Aponte

Jose Aponte

Kentucky Shakespeare Veterans performing “Henry V.”

Jewell Conner, Staff Reporter

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Daggers drawn, as they circle in closer. The words “revenge, revenge,”

echo from the group in unison. This was an interactive performance of “Merchant of Venice” performed by Kentucky Shakespeare Veterans.

On Thursday, Sept. 22, in Hoosier Room East, a group of nine veterans, both men and women from all branches and ranks of the military, performed an adaptation of three monologues, “Merchant of Venice,” “Hamlet” and “Henry V.”

The Kentucky Shakespeare’s Shakespeare with Veterans program was created by Matt Wallace, producing artistic director at Kentucky Shakespeare, and Fred Johnson, retired Army colonel, in February of this year.

“It’s really rewarding to get to know what they have been through and how they respond to Shakespeare text,” said Amy Attaway, associate artistic director at Kentucky Shakespeare.

Attaway said she is the facilitator of the group and it is a real honor to be working amongst such an amazing group.

“Some of the most powerful words in history are written by Shakespeare,” Attaway said.

After each performance Attaway asked the audience what they thought the piece was about. One audience member said the “Merchant of Venice” performance was  about frustration because we are not treated the same.

“It gave me cold chills the way revenge was spoken in unison,” Leigh Ann Meyer, director of the writing center, said after the “Merchant of Venice” performance.

Joe Simon, president of Student Veterans Organization, telling the meaning behind “Hamlet.”

Joe Simon, president of Student Veterans Organization, telling the meaning behind “Hamlet.”

“To be or not to be,” the veterans group said in unison, as they passed the dagger around amongst themselves. At the end of the performance, Joe Simon, history senior and president of the Student Veterans Organization at IUS, walked to the front of the room and asked the audience if they knew what the speech in Hamlet was about.

“Did you know that dude was trying to commit suicide?” Simon said.

When talking about Shakespeare, the veterans said, books are meant to be read and Shakespeare is meant to be performed.

“It’s just words on a page,” Simon said. “I think of my friends who are not here, it helps to humanize it.”

“I have always loved Shakespeare and the most rewarding part of being in the group was getting to spout Shakespeare,” Brian Easley, retired staff sergeant for the Army, said.

Brian Easley, retired Army staff sergeant (left), and Dan Minton, retired Army Vietnam veteran, performing an excerpt from “Hamlet.”

Brian Easley, retired Army staff sergeant (left), and Dan Minton, retired Army Vietnam veteran, performing an excerpt from “Hamlet.”

Easley moved to the Louisville area from Washington D.C. in Feb. 2016, and said you could never get him near a veteran center, but he was looking to make connections. He found out about the Kentucky Shakespeare Veterans and has made many bonds with the men and women of this group. Easley said Marines, Air Force or Army, none of that matters here.

First Year Seminar students were given the option to attend class or the event. Mikayla Koch, nursing freshman, and Matthew Wuerthele, secondary education freshman, said they were attending this event for their First Year Seminar class event paper.

The group performed “Henry V” as their last act. Attaway said she always gets tearful during this performance.

Some of the group walked down the aisle stopping to look directly at the audience as they spoke their lines. At the end of the performance, the audience applauded before being asked their thoughts on what the scene was about. An audience member said it was about brotherhood and having each other’s back.

“We have to band together because we are all in this together,” the veterans said, nodding in agreement.

  

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Shakespeare with Veterans for suicide prevention