Weekend performances in Fairbanks discuss veteran struggles in the U.S.
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Stephan Wolfert ended his military service in the 1990s. As he began the process of leaving, he found that he was having difficulty transitioning.
Then he caught a performance of a classic Shakespeare play. “Shakespeare’s Richard III begins with a veteran walking out,” Wolfert said, “talking directly to the audience and saying ‘Now we’re at peace. Where do I fit in? I’m not fit for peace. I’m fit for war.’”
According to Wolfert, this event resonated with him so deeply that he began to study acting. “The classical actor training was helping me, and the principles of theater were helping me with things that I didn’t even have a name for yet, which ended up being PTS, Post-Traumatic Stress, ADHD.”
Now he and his wife Dawn Stern travel the country bringing a message to veterans that they’re not alone, and that it’s okay to ask for help. “We have so many resources available to us as we’re being recruited,” Wolfert said, adding, “In the military, they have a term called being ‘fit for service,’ so we have all the resources we would need to remain fit for service; but when we get out, there’s nothing. There’s nothing that helps us ‘De-cruit’. There’s nothing that helps us be fit for society.”
These lessons have also proven helpful for anyone suffering from trauma. “The arts gives us the way to name it,” Wolfert said. “They give us the language to help articulate it, and they give us some of the tools to help us recover from that.”
Wolfert and Stern’s nonprofit De-Cruit puts on performances and workshops around the country with the goal of helping veterans transition from service back into society.
On Friday, September 9 and Saturday, September 10, De-Cruit is coming to West Valley High School’s DeWild Theatre to bring their work to the Fairbanks community.
“Friday night is ‘Cry Havoc’, which is my solo show that brings together Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s veterans, specifically, and how he so perfectly spoke to the military veteran experience even 400 plus years ago, and I interweave it with my personal story,” Wolfert explained.
The following night, both Wolfert and Stern will perform a show called “Make Thick My Blood”, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth through a trauma lens. “[Macbeth and Lady Macbeth] have this hole in their lives, perhaps several, and they’re trying to fill them, and they make horrible decisions, because that’s what trauma does. It informs the way we view the world, the way we view ourselves, the way we view others.”
Wolfert explained that these shows will be followed by a discussion with the performers “so that rather than me stirring up a bunch of stuff and everybody driving home alone, we stay in the room where it happened, hold space... Dawn and I will hold space for people to allow to come up whatever needs to come up, to process.”
After the performances, starting Monday, September 12, the two will hold workshops for veterans on Mondays and Wednesdays for three weeks. “Veterans will come in,” Wolfert continued, “and they’ll work on whatever they feel they want to work on, through prompted writings, through a little bit of Shakespeare’s text, through community, through mindfulness and practices, they’ll be given skills to not only share their story, but how to recover from their story when it comes up.”
The Saturday show carries with it a content warning for discussing suicide.
The Monday and Wednesday workshops are for veterans only. However, there is a public workshop on September 17.
More information about the shows and about De-Cruit can be found here.
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