Note: No veterans’ real names included here – they are referred to instead only by made-up letters.
J. One technique from theater used by DE-CRUIT is known as “being in the moment” and this work has had a particular impact on J. “Being in the moment” is the practice of being present in the moment of right now rather than thinking about the future or the past. In theater, an easy way to begin this practice is dialogue: practicing listening to what’s being said rather than thinking about what is the next line to be said… or worse a line that was just said and judging how it was said. The practical applications of “in the moment” work are nearly endless and J expressed that this work is a tool that she is carrying this work into her everyday life. She explained that one of her primary obstacles throughout her average day is that she is distracted by an array of internal thoughts and judgments rather than being present and “in the moment” for better or for worse. Prior to DE-CRUIT she felt that the only time she felt in the moment was when she was alone with her dogs, but never people. DE-CRUIT “in the moment” work along with grounding techniques have allowed her to begin her practice with people, further, having performed live on stage in front of strangers helped to reinforce the work to permit her a greater ease with strangers.
L. Leaving military’s regimented routines and team work only to return to a civilian life lacking any structure, mission or a recognizable team has been a lingering issue for L. Complicating matters, L explained that until he worked on the “homecoming” scene in Shakespeare’s Macbeth he hadn’t even realized or been able to express this to himself or others. Using Shakespeare’s returning veteran exposed and ultimately elicited deep stuck points for L. Once expressed he was concerned about being left alone with his newly exposed feelings; however, the camaraderie of the group along with the applicable techniques of DE-CRUIT both prevented him from shutting back down, and even to continue the work after the course’s completion. The work of DE-CRUIT has prompted L to seek out both veteran’s groups and performing arts groups, something he had deliberately avoided previously. He shared that these groups may offer the team work and camaraderie that was left behind in the Navy, and the DE-CRUIT provides the regimented routines.
L also shared that he had a particular connection to Macbeth’s homecoming struggle of leaving a combat zone after inflicting mass destruction (the killing of large numbers of “enemy”) and now struggling the with both the justification of what they did in that zone and the rules after war.
T. The use of Shakespeare’s verse is specific, so too is the selection of scenes and characters. By applying first the grounding techniques followed by the use of the verse’s iambic pentameter, veterans are often first uncomfortable with simply standing, breathing, taking up time and space and expressing themselves. (Very briefly, the “use of iambic pentameter” means asking the veterans to ground and breath before speaking each new line of verse aloud. For example:
[breath in] “To be or not to be that is the question”
[breath in] “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer”
[breath in] “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”
[breath in] “Or to take arms against a sea of troubles”
[breath in] “And by opposing end them to die to sleep”
T in particular struggled with these steps. His resistance to the breathing before each line was frustrating for him during the first four classes. After five classes T found the rhythm of the verse with dramatic results. He was asked to link his passage to a personal story, he impromptu shared a story from Vietnam that shook everyone in the room. After sharing he was asked how he feels: “It felt good. I’ve never told anybody that story before”. He explained that the combination of a safe secure space “to speak what you feel and not what you aught to say” [Lear], combined with a predominantly veteran-based group, and the practice of expression along with the stirrings of Shakespeare unleashed the memory in him and provided a means to express it to a room that would support him.