VCPA, Shakes & Vets, …

We are currently conducting sessions and within a year we expect to collect and publish the data derived specifically from our first small pilot of DE-CRUIT.

However, the DE-CRUIT work is derived from my work with Shakespeare & Veterans at the Veterans Center for the Performing Arts (VCPA). Tangible results from the VCPA can be seen in the veterans’ theatre productions they created and in the veteran’s testimonials, of which I have attached a few excerpts.

Over the course of about fourteen years, I worked directly with about 200 to 250 veterans. Indirectly, I worked with well into the hundreds of veterans, and worked with a number of family members of veterans, as well. The number of veterans that I have worked with long-term, on a deep, protracted level is in the dozens. I have worked with about thirty to fifty vets very closely over fourteen years (ranging from no fewer than three to as many as twelve at one time). A significant part of DE-CRUIT’s work is having veterans and civilians, or those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to understand the veteran experience, work and collaborate closely together. In the case of the VCPA, those civilians were in the form of theatre professionals (professional actors, writers, directors, producers, designers, and production crew) as well as audience. The number of civilians who worked directly with military veterans was about two hundred and fifty civilian theatre professionals, who were directly affected by their collaboration with veterans.

From 1996-2003, based in both Providence, Rhode Island and in New York City– The productions that were created from working with military veterans or examining existing work from a veterans’ perspective were:

Stephan III: A bastardization of Richard III, at Trinity Rep Conservatory.

Romeo & Juliet, Trinity Rep Company’s Summer Shakespeare Project–I was cast, Producer and co-creator of the company

Twelfth Night, Trinity Rep Company’s Summer Shakespeare Project–I was cast, Producer and co-creator of the company

Taming of the Shrew, Trinity Rep Company’s Summer Shakespeare Project–I was cast, Producer and co- creator of the company

Julias Caesar, Trinity Rep Company’s Summer Shakespeare Project–I was cast, Producer and co-creator of the company

Othello, Trinity Rep Company’s mainstage–I was in the cast and military director

Movin’ Out, Broadway, National Tour, International Tour, Tony-Award nominated, Tony-Award winner— I was the military director

From 2003-2013, based in Los Angeles, as founding director of the Veterans Center for the Performing Arts (VCPA) I: conducted free weekly classes for military veterans (DE-CRUIT); Developed and produced original works by military veterans; Examined existing works from a veteran’s perspective (primarily the works of William Shakespeare); and employed veterans on and off-stage. Productions created, produced and performed by military veterans were:

Voices of Courage; Fit For Society; Red, Black & Blue: African American Military Heroes Every American Should Know; Over Before We Get There (The short stories of a Vietnam veteran); Richard III: PTSD (A veterans’ take on Henry VI, part 3 and Richard III); Illyria (an adaptation of Twelfth Night set in an actual Los Angeles nightclub); Much Ado About Nothing; Sanctuary; The Man of La Mancha (set in the VA’s poly-trauma ward); Twelfth Night (Outdoor venue alongside the West Los Angles VA); Othello (Outdoor venue alongside the West Los Angles VA); Coriolanus (Outdoor venue alongside the West Los Angles VA); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Outdoor venue alongside the West Los Angles VA) Cry Havoc!; Countless workshops and staged readings

Cry Havoc: this is my 70-minute long, one-person play telling my story of de-cruitment. Cry Havoc seamlessly interweaves Shakespeare’s most famous veterans’ speeches with personal experience to help us understand the national crises we face when we fail in reintegrating our military veterans.

Here is a partial list of locations/groups where Cry Havoc has been performed:

NYU- Department of Applied Psychology; NYU-PACH Conference; Los Angeles County Psychological Association; San Francisco Department of Veteran Affairs; Institute for Humanities Research, University of California, Santa Cruz; Center for Innovative Research for military veterans and their families (CIR), University of Southern California; The Folger Theater, Washington D.C.

Printed On: 12 July 2015 The 2015 J.M.K. Innovation Prize 16

Stephan Wolfert

Shakespeare Center Los Angeles; Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA; Big Falls Shakespeare Festival, Michigan; Magnetic North Theatre Conference, Ottawa Canada Saint Peter’s Church, Morristown, NJ; Saint Malachy’s Church, NYC; Culver City War Memorial, CA; Brooklyn Veteran’s Association; Brooklyn Historical Society; Brooklyn Community College; Kingston Community College; CUNY Vets-John Jay, NYC; Circle in the Square Theatre, Cambridge, MA Off-Broadway run in NYC at the Access Theatre

It was the show Cry Havoc that opened the door to NYU’s Project for the Advancement of our Common Humanity (PACH), a prestigious university based think tank, which is geared toward creating change through social innovation. But it was my keynote addresses and my contribution to the panel discussions that impressed the leadership of PACH enough to invite me into a role on their advisory board; a position that I cherish and continue to hold to this day.

These productions, the continued collaborations and the communities affected are tangible results of the origins of DE-CRUIT.

The Tangible Results on Veterans: Personal Stories.

Jerry is an Army veteran from the American war in Vietnam. Multiple tours, combat injury and decades old moral injury meant that, while Jerry had seemingly “fit into society” he secretly suffered physical and psychological pain daily. The first summer (2007) that Jerry worked with us he had never worked with Shakespeare before and was unable to memorize a single line of iambic pentameter. By his second summer he was memorizing and performing entire speeches in verse before audiences of 100-250 weekend after weekend. By his third summer Jerry, now in his sixties, went back to school for pre-law. Jerry has since been accepted to and graduated from Law School, and has passed the bar exam.

In 2007 Ranje, a Navy veteran from the First Gulf War, heard about our program in Los Angeles. At the time, Ranje was homeless, battling addiction and suicidal thoughts. Ranje wrote a letter to express what the work has done for him (excerpt below). Within one year of working with us, Ranje had made progress by getting an apartment, a job, and getting into school. However, he would eventually slip back into old cycles. After three years of working with Ranje, his healthy cycles have been getting longer than his homelessness cycles. His overall trend is improvement, and currently he has remained in VA connected housing, with a job and in school for nearly three years straight and still going.

For another example of tangible results of our work, I’ll turn to the veterans words, which they’ve written themselves. Here are excerpts of just a few veterans’ testimonials:

From an unsolicited letter written by Ranje entitled: “A Life Changing Experience”

“… The teamwork aspect of performing in the plays reminded me of how important a team is and how a group is better at accomplishing goals than an individual… I got a crash course in the socialization of veterans this summer working with Mr. Stephan Wolfert… The environment was very friendly and supportive. Everyone encouraged everyone else to ask questions, try new things and to not be afraid of making mistakes.”

From Robert, an Air Force veteran: An unsolicited text dated June 30th, 2015–

“Thanks for a great class last night. And thanks for appreciating the work I’m doing. I don’t think I responded to you in the right way last night. Still getting used to praise.”

Printed On: 12 July 2015 The 2015 J.M.K. Innovation Prize 17

Stephan Wolfert

But I must say this- You have been changing my life, for the better, over the last six months. I’ve become braver and more open and the world at large has been taking notice. This development falls squarely on your gentle guidance. So, thank you.”