First-person accounts tell true stories from the battlefield and the barracks.
History Theatre follows a man into Vietnam and women into Iraq in two plays that are memoirs of military life.
War is hell, and the History Theatre explores what that hell looks like up-close with two plays built around first-person accounts of combat and military life.
The Things They Carried is a one-man performance of Tim O’Brien’s novel about the American experience in Vietnam. In 1968, O’Brien was a Macalester graduate on his way to Harvard. Then he was drafted. He fled to Canada but returned. “I was a coward; I went to war,” he writes in his book.
“Jim Stowell got the rights to adapt the book and brought me a draft, which I loved,” says artistic director Ron Peluso. The play describes O’Brien’s horrific experiences but comes full circle when he brings his daughter to Vietnam to explain it to her.
As much as Peluso liked that script, he craved other points of view. “Looking at the season, it seemed awfully male, so I searched the Internet and found Helen Benedict’s play, which is powerful and timely.”
In Lonely Soldiers: Women at War in Iraq, Benedict casts the true stories of eight women, told in their own words, into an evening of monologues and interactions. They describe combat experiences and, just as bad, the sexual harassment they endured.
“These are contrasting views of how we send youth off to war,” Peluso says of the two plays, which are running in rep.
“Being a kid of the 1960s, I had a draft number. It was a very different time. I doubt we would have been in Iraq if there were a draft and we were sending off college kids. The contrasts are what make the pairing interesting.” March 15–April 6. History Theatre, 30 E. 10th St., St. Paul, 651-292-4323, historytheatre.com