Coming Home: A Soldiers’ Project
by Kathleen Jeffs
Written by Kathleen Jeffs, Coming Home: A Soldiers’ Project was a premiere work of documentary theatre. The show explored the experiences of what it is like to return from war to study at Gonzaga. It is the story of transitions, of place and perception: from service to civilian, how our senses take in and process the new sights and sounds of the university environment. Small moves make big waves – connections are made and unmade. Our construction of the meaning of events, past and present, is made in moments of transition.
Director – Charles M Pepiton
Scenic, Lighting & Projection Design – Courtney Smith
Costume Design – Colin Wintz
Sound Design & Projection Engineering – Keely Wright-Ogren
Technical Director – Abbey Plankey
Stage Manager – Emily Davis
Photographer – Gavin Doremus
“There’s a prevailing, predictable theatre that’s risk averse and wary of failure, and there’s a dark-horse theatre that’s predicated on risk and failure as preconditions of a transformative live event. And it is the latter of these two theatres that will keep the art form vital in the twenty-first century, in a mediated age where the merits of liveness will be questioned as never before.” This provocative line comes from Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill in his book Theatre of the Unimpressed. It’s a line that simultaneously haunts and drives my work as a director. What’s the point of live theatre, given the incalculable other, more readily accessible, contemporary forms? Surely not simply more diversion. So why theatre?
Coming Home: A Soldiers’ Project is one answer to that question. This is a show that reflects to our community voices from our community – voices that come from only 1% of us. As a country, we’re entering the 16th year of continuous warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, depending on how you count. For the moment, set aside questions of why this is or should be so. For every year we continue our wars, we create more veterans. Every year more veterans return home and reengage in our community. They’ve seen things you and I will never see. Their perception is wider. The wars, for them, are more than passing headlines, and as the line goes, “You can’t hear war without telling it.” (For veterans in the audience, we’re especially grateful you’re here. I urge you check out the event listings from Telling War, whose purpose is to engage and support the veteran voice through a variety of story forms.) If we can’t hear war, we’ll go on making it. This show takes a knowing risk and wagers that a live encounter with the lived experiences of our community’s veterans is itself a transformative endeavor, and one reveling in the vitality and liveness of theatre.
- Listen to the original interview archive from Oral History of Homecoming Project. (AUDIO)
- January 30, 2018 – KPBX Spokane Public Radio – “From the Studio: GU Department of Theatre & Dance presents Coming Home: A Soldiers’ Project“ (AUDIO)
- January 30, 2018 – FOX 28 News – Coming Home on Good Day Fox (VIDEO)
- January 31, 2018 – The Bulletin – “Original play about veteran experience debuts at Gonzaga”
- February 1, 2018 – The Inlander – “New play by Gonzaga students and faculty relates soldiers’ Spokane homecoming stories”
- February 1, 2018 – KREM 2 News – “Gonzaga University’s new play Coming Home: A Soldier’s Project tells the real stories of soldiers coming home to the Inland Northwest” (VIDEO)
- February 2, 2018 – The Spokesman Review – “Gonzaga’s Coming Home explores transition from base to basketball”