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  Revisiting Vietnam American RadioWorks
     
  Vietnam Scrapbook
     

Hemphill,Ellen
Chapel Hill, NC, USA

I am Artistic Director for Archipelago Theatre. I am also a writer, and in 1998 I co-wrote, created, and directed a performance called "EULOGY FOR A WARRIOR". This piece
for 9 actors (6 men 3 women)and with original music was a memory piece and a piece to look at, and honor the "wounded warrior". In looking back at our lives during the Vietnam era, we could see how every aspect of this time affected and wounded the psyche of the nation. Whether one was a veteran, a protestor, a parent, a wife, a nurse....it goes on and on and the stories (and wounds) were passed down to the next generation.
Especially to the young men, whose fathers
had to live either the horror of fighting in
that conflict, or stay at home (or escape) and fight the war not to go.

This performance had a great impact on the audiences that saw it--including many vets who
had never set foot in a theatre---and on the
performers. I still meet people on the street
who were affected by this show.

All this to say that, the era was so strong for
me as a young woman who saw it affect her brother,
her brother-in-law, who saw how the veterans
of WWII could not understand the lack of "patriotism", and who saw how her contemporaries on the college campuses were, on
one side, engaged passionately in protest, and on
the other, misguided and naive about the realities that were experienced by the young men who were fighting, and about the people of South
Vietnam.

Theatre is more immediate than film, and in this
way, even though many great films have been created on this subject, the actual smell of
bamboo and mud, and tangible fear on the face
of a man twenty feet in front of you, leaves
a lasting effect and creates "viseral memory" that
gives you a sense of history.

It was a powerful experience to create this
piece, and the photographs, and video from it
testify to the power it had on the actors. My wish
was to honor and reconnect to that time in my history, and to that of the public, and it was
clear by the response to the show that there is
still a great need to process the effects of
that "conflict" and simply witness the grief
that it caused.
   

 

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