Iowa City vets to provide glimpse of military life through performance

BY ERIC MOORE | AUGUST 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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Only 1 percent of Iowa City residents have military experience, but in November, that minority will have the opportunity to share their stories in a unique stage production called Telling: Iowa City.

The project is a combined effort of numerous groups at the University of Iowa, and it will give audiences a unique perspective into the lives of veterans, said John Mikelson, the University of Iowa Veterans Center coordinator.

Organizers are interviewing veterans to collect material for the script. Once the interviews are collected and reviewed, organizers will look for common threads in the stories before forming the script and stage directions for the project. The intent is to integrate war veterans who feel isolated in normal society, Mikelson said.

"This isn't something we get great access to; it's always mediated," said Jonathan Wei, the creator of The Telling Project. "It's not common that we have the opportunity to sit down and talk to people who were actually there."

Wei, the project's producer, created the project in May 2007. The first version, Telling: Eugene, focused on the lives of veterans in Eugene, Ore.; it was performed in February 2008. Other productions have been performed in California, Mississippi, and Washington.Though Mikelson said the production will focus largely on veterans from the current war, the creators are open to listening to veterans from past wars.

"Right now I have Korean and World War II vets calling me saying they want to participate in the project, too," he said. "So I think we can show some of these threads are intergenerational."

Mikelson estimates that roughly 12 people expressed interest in participating, though the producers are hoping for 35 to 40. The stage production will feature stories of six to 10 people.

The final production will be directed by Jennifer Fawcett, a founder of the Working Group Theatre.

"The end goal is to show the community that the 1 percent who defends them is right here among them," Mikelson said. "They live here, work here, go to school here. We want to put a human face on the war on terror."

The project's main mission is to create a production that will reach out to its audience and help veterans cope with their experiences.

With roughly 4,000 troops from Iowa returning to their homes this summer, the production will be relevant and deal with not only concepts of the two wars, it will feature connections to veterans of other wars as well.

Open-call interviews were held Thursday and will be held between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. today through Aug. 22 in 115 Communications Center.

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