Temple University’s longest-running student play, In Conflict, performed to a standing ovation at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn., on Tuesday.
This performance marked the beginning of a new chapter for Temple Theaters. Doug Wager, who wrote and directed the play, is currently in negotiations to bring In Conflict to the Culture Project, an off-Broadway theater in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood.
In Conflict, which was adapted from Yvonne Latty’s 2006 book In Conflict: Iraq War Veterans Speak Out on Duty, Loss and the Fight to Stay Alive, is a collection of 17 monologues that relay, word-for-word, the first-hand accounts of Iraq War veterans.
The play was first staged at Temple’s Randall Theater and scheduled to run from Oct. 4 through Oct. 13, 2007. It was the first play in the history of Temple Theaters to have its run extended from 12 performances to 24, and occupied the Randall Theater stage until Oct. 20.
“We weren’t even done blocking the play before all the shows were sold out [at Temple],” said Tim Chambers, a 2007 alumnus who studied theater and psychology at Temple.
Chambers plays gay marine John Ball, Jr. in the play, and said the experience, which involved listening to hours’ worth of interview tapes and rehearsing every day, was draining but rewarding
The show was chosen from more than 200 initial entries to be one of eight regional contestants in The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, which rewards excellence in college-level theater. The cast traveled to Pittsburgh to participate in the Region 2 Festival in early January. It will be determined in March whether or not In Conflict will be given the opportunity to participate in the national festival, held each year in April.
In addition to a possible off-Broadway stint, In Conflict will likely tour the country this summer, Wager said. He said he is also hoping the play will be shown at the 2008 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival.
Wager said one of In Conflict’s greatest assets is its ability to aid in the healing process of Iraq War veterans.
Currently, the cast is working with Yellow Ribbon Fund, Inc. to bring In Conflict to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Yellow Ribbon Fund, Inc. is a company that assists injured service members and helps them reassimilate into society.
“Aside from the creative reward of making a new piece of theater that people connect with and relate to, it was great watching the students come to understand what it means to be a citizen artist,” Wager said. “Being an artist can go beyond personal rewards and can improve the lives of people facing challenges or difficult circumstances.”
In Conflict performed alongside well-known playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith’s new solo play, Let Me Down Easy. Smith’s style of “documentary theater” – using primary sources to develop plot, characters and dialogue – is very similar to what Wager did with In Conflict, which is why the plays were shown together.
Even though In Conflict was only given one performance at the Long Wharf Theatre, that performance left an impact on both the audience and the actors.
“People seemed really inspired by what we did,” said Suyeon Kim, a 2007 alumnus who studied film and media arts and theater at Temple. Her character, Tammy Duckworth, lost both of her legs while serving as a sergeant and pilot in Iraq. “I think that a lot of the people [who attended the show in Connecticut] hadn’t heard stories like Tammy’s before.
“I felt honored,” she said.
Anna Hyclak can be reached at email@example.com.