Theatre department tells soldiers’ stories

The reality of war is something someone rarely sees, but in October, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Theatre Department is bringing real life stories to the stage in their production of Soldiers Circle.

Playwright Russell J. Vandenbrouke wrote Soldiers Circle in 2008. Vandenbrouke is the Department Chair for the theatre program at the University of Louisville.

While in Russia, attending a performance of a play he had written, Vandenbrouke encountered a memorial for Russians who had died in Afghanistan.

“I wondered how many young men and women from Louisville died at war in the same place on earth,” said Vandenbrouke.

Soldiers Circle follows the experience of a company of 15 soldiers as they grow from a group of enlisters to a band of brothers and sisters. Director Steve Trovillion Smith thought that the play was important. Not only is it timely but also relatable to the students. The characters are based on real life experiences of real soldiers in Afghanistan. It takes place in the present day and the characters are around the same age as the students, making it something they can relate to.

The preparation for putting on such a work required an intense amount of research. The production team looked at blogs, memoirs, as well as films to research the topic. They also spoke to actual veterans in order to accurately portray medical care, training, marching and weapon handling. Smith also had two military advisors from the military sciences department to help him bring the play to life.

The costumes of the play were equally well-researched. Smith said that they were told that Soldiers Circle is, “more accurately outfitted than some movies.”

Lizzy Joanis, a senior drama major and costume designer for the play said that even though it wasn’t a period piece, the costuming was just as difficult. In a contemporary play like Soldiers Circle, the costume department had to focus deeply on accuracy, which took a lot of preparation and research.

Due to the fact that it is a travelling show, the set design had to be flexible and compact enough to fit into one truck. It made set design slightly more complicated.

The play will be UWSP’s entry to the American College Theatre Festival this year, where universities from all over the country showcase their work. If the play makes it to the regional competition, the production will be travelling to Michigan to perform. In January, the play will also be performed at Wausau’s Grand Theatre. It is the first time that the UWSP Theatre Department has ever performed there.

The play also features actors performing a cappella musical numbers as well as actual photo and video footage from the war.

Soldiers Circle gives students the chance to see a play about people their age who are in the midst of war. Smith stated that the play was about the troops, not politics. Vandenbroucke stated that the reason he wrote the play was that “citizens in a democracy are responsible for decisions governments make on their behalf, but our knowledge is based on spin, patriotism, best-foot-forward, and Hollywood make believe.”

He hopes that the play will give the audience knowledge about what soldiers have to learn on their own.

Soldiers Circle will be performed at the Noel Fine Arts Center in Jenkins Theatre October 8-10th, and 14-16th.


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