Sunday, January 15, 2006

‘Army of One’ marches to regional theater festival

By Terry Rombeck

Zacory Boatright’s play “An Army of One” has been selected for a prestigious regional theater festival.

But the recent Kansas University graduate isn’t letting the attention — or the possibility of advancing to national competition in Washington, D.C. — go to his head.

He’d prefer the focus remain on the play’s subject: post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans returning from Iraq.

“I realized it’s not about going to D.C., and it’s not about exposure,”

Dylan Hilpman, left, portrays 18-year-old Josh, who enlists in the U.S. Army on the heels of the World Trade Center tragedy, during a scene with Rachael Perry, as his mother, in “An Army of One.” The play, written by recent KU grad Zacory Boatright, has been selected for this year’s Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

Boatright says. “The most gratifying thing is standing in the audience or standing in the lobby and seeing I’ve made a difference. It’s hard for me not to think about what this show is really about, which is educating people.”

“An Army of One” was selected for this year’s Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, which is Jan. 22-28 in Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn. It’s one of nine plays from the seven-state region selected for the festival, and one of five from universities in Kansas.

It was written by Boatright from fall 2004 to summer 2005 during a directed study with Paul Lim, KU English professor and founder of English Alternative Theatre.

“An Army of One” tells the story of Josh Harrison, a veteran of the war in Iraq, through three different stages in his life: as an 8-year-old child who loses his father to war (left, Kris Hilding), an 18-year-old who enlists after 9-11 (center, Dylan Hilpman) and as a young Iraq veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (right, Joe Carey).

The play debuted in November in a joint production of EAT and University Theatre. It is directed by Paul Hough, a KU alumnus and director of production for the American Heartland Theatre in Kansas City, Mo.

Now, “An Army of One” is the 16th play in the 16-year history of EAT to be selected for the KCACTF competition. Adjudicators who saw the show at KU selected it for the competition.

Winners from the regional festivals advance to national competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

“KCACTF is absolutely unique,” Lim says. “It’s the only organization of its sort, for those of us who are not in major cities like Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco. It’s a real lifeline for theatrical success. It opens doors for our student playwrights who might not otherwise get their plays seen by the outside.”

“An Army of One” tells the story of an Iraq war veteran who struggles to reconcile his memories of the war with his everyday life when he returns home. Boatright, now a technical writer in Minneapolis, Minn., based the play, in part, on a Newsweek article he read about an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide after returning home.

“It’s about supporting the people who need our help the most,” Boatright says. “‘An Army of One’ contends the people who need our help the most are veterans of foreign wars, people who come home broken. It makes the argument we need to do better for these men. We need to do better for these women.”

He says the play is not about supporting or opposing the war, but rather “owning it, both the good things we’ve done in Iraq and the bad things.”

Boatright, a native of Topeka, added one scene after the KU performances to help explain the perspectives of the various supporting characters.

Boatright, six cast members, six crew members and others will be headed by bus to Fargo for performances at noon and 2:30 p.m. Jan. 27. They’ll perform a benefit show at 7:30 p.m. Friday at KU to help pay for the trip.

Boatright says a common comment he heard from those walking out of the theater in November was that even though the show is an hour and 10 minutes long, the audience felt it was much longer.

“When people say that, it’s not because they felt the show was bad and they were looking at their watches,” Boatright explains. “It’s because of the content matter and what’s done on stage — the quality of the actors and the directors — that culminates into this experience that’s overwhelming. It literally bombards you.”


Original Story Located Here

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