Installation of the Veterans Book Project at the Nomas Foundation in Rome // UW-Parkside Theater Department Students Perform “Shrapnel”

Artist Monica Haller continues her work on the Veterans Book Project (VBP), creating an archive of voices from the front line(s) of war(s). The VBP now numbers over thirty books written by veterans, enlisted men and women, and others touched intimately by war.  This month the VBP is on view at the Nomas Foundation in Rome. The programing for the exhibition in Italy include a round-table panel discussion with scholars at Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome. Wow.Next stop for the VBP is Kenosha and Racine where UW-Parkside  Gallery, is working  with Carthage College Gallery, Racine Art Council ArtSpace Gallery, UW-Milwaukee Special Collections Library, and the Civil War Museum to stage a community-wide exhibition of the project beginning March 27-and running through the middle of May 2012.

The installation at the Nomas Foundation is beautiful and will be our guide as we install the Veterans Book Project  in the galleries in Racine and Kenosha.

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UW-Parkside is hosting a book making workshop with veterans Jan 20-February 11, 2012. Please contact me if you know a potential participant. 

Last week I attended a UW-Parkside theater production inspired by, and shaped from, the Veterans Book Project. In September Lisa Kornetsky (UW-Parkside Theater Department, Chair)  shared the VBP with her senior seminar . Her students decided to focus on the the VBP books for the  semester and they  built an origin script from it. I saw their performance, entitle “Shrapnel,” this week and was very moved. To create “Shrapnel”  eEach student in the class read every book in the VBP library, then using the words of the VBP authors, the students collaged together a script with its own narrative arc. In the performance of the script, the student/actors did not “act out stories” from the VBP books, but rather channeled the voices of  the men and women who wrote the books. The student /actors used the stage, their voices, and their bodies to speak the voices of others.

It was very moved by the performance of “Shrapnel.” I have participated in two Veterans Book Project workshops (and have blogged about this here). My role in the workshops is to serve as an editor of rough drafts (as needed). I work one-on-one with book makers and get to know their stories very well. I worked with Mary-Ann Rich, a career military nurse, who served as the head nurse in a trauma unit in Iraq. As I sat in the audience of the performance I heard Rich’s voice skillfully channeled through a young actress, whose aim was to  respectfully share this veteran’s powerful experience of serving on the front line of battle.  This group of young writer-actors impressively navigated the delicate task of using one artwork to create another.

This spring when the VBP is on view in the UW-Parkside Foundation Gallery, we will re-stage “Shrapnel” on campus.

UW-Parkside senior seminar production of “Shrapnel” based on the Veterans Book Project. Portrait taken after the performance with Alecia Annachhino, Brittany Arndt, Meggie Greivell, Bobby Johnson, Sarah Lord, Alyssa Mauk, Julie Middendorf, Maddie Wakley.

Audience for “Shrapnel”

Talk Back after the performance where students discussed the ways that the VBP and creating “Schrapnel” changed their understanding of war.

About Patricia Briggs
Patricia Briggs is the director of galleries and curator of exhibitions at Jamestown Community College in Western New York. She writes the blog "Scene Unseen: Viewing Notes" about visual art in her community.

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