As part of our partnership with the RSC Open Stages the Combat Veteran Players (CVP) went to their rehearsal space in Stratford-upon-Avon for a day of workshops. This article is written by Jaclyn McLoughlin:
"I wanted to be sure to send a line today to thank the RSC Open Stages for what was undoubtedly one of the most memorable and influential days that the CVP has experienced.
"The guys in the group have expressed several times over the past year how frustrating and debilitating they find it when they are treated as a member of a societal box that has been marked 'mentally traumatized veteran'. They are eager to break out of a stereotype that so often keeps them trapped in with labels and limited expectations that prevent them from ever reaching for anything higher. Yesterday, the RSC staff did not treat them as Veterans who were trying to act. The RSC treated them as actors who happen to be Veterans. And it made all of the difference in the world both on a performance level and on a personal one for each of the participants.
"Many of the guys struggle with the vulnerability that comes with looking silly in front of a group, and they asked upon joining the CVP to be taught how to 'make a fool of themselves' again. I have worked hard to get them to a point where they are able to let themselves go a bit, and I have seen definite improvements ... but what I saw in some of them yesterday was an absolute break-through. They were larger than life and fully confident to jump into the centre of the group with the gestures and sounds that you were demanding of them, unaware and unconcerned with any vulnerability that went along with it.
"The work that you were doing with impulses was fascinating for me to watch. The exercises highlighted the re-discovery of certain impulses that the guys need to find, and it made for an intriguing consideration for me to take forward in rehearsals. On the other hand, seeing them all on their toes and ready to jump in at any moment was already a clear improvement in that regard, and it stood out to me immediately. They were at-attention, buzzing with energy, and eager to react.
"The ease with which the guys trusted and worked with the staff from the RSC says a lot. They are an incredible group of inspiring men who captured my heart long ago, but trust is something that can be a struggle for them in the outside world. The staff created a safe and secure space in which they allowed themselves to trust and connect with them in almost no time at all, and that is no easy feat. The guys were taken on a journey from an inhibited and slightly nervous group in the morning to a confident, open, physical, and energetic group in the afternoon.
"On a personal level, as a director, I now have pages of notes that I took while watching and I have been excitedly reading them over this morning and planning out how to incorporate everything into our next rehearsal. I learned an amazing amount by allowing myself to just be a sponge and absorb all that I saw yesterday, and I will be carrying it all onward in the CVP as we continue to work together.
"The guys are already asking when they can return to see Stratford again, and they are firm and insistent that we continue working at the standards that the RSC set for them, which raised the bar significantly and proved that it could be handled.
"On behalf of the guys and the team, thanks to the RSC Open Stages for a great day."