WE REACHED OUR GOAL!!
FURTHER, OVER-GOAL DONATIONS WILL BE GRATEFULLY RECEIVED!
Further donations gratefully accepted so that we can expand our vision further - specifically with 2-3 projectors not 1, paying better wages, unseen dramaturgical rewrite / hard drive storage costs not covered by contingency, giving VO actors travel expenses as well as a fee to get to their studio record next week, train tickets for designer and director. If we get to 12K we can do all of those things!
What is Heroine?
Heroine is closely based on the true story of a female soldier and her experiences in the US army. With this project, this previously unknown soldier is telling her story publicly for the first time.
To protect her identity, we are calling her ‘Danna Davis’.
Danna Davis served for 10 years in the US armed forces as Quick Reactionary Force, Drill Sergeant, Staff Sergeant and Squad Leader, helping Rwanda after the genocide and to tear down the Berlin wall. She was awarded many medals during her service, including the Purple Heart.
At the time she enlisted she was also the only woman in her entire company. As a lesbian, she served during 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and had to keep her true sexuality a secret. She is also a survivor of military sexual trauma, or MST. Military sexual trauma is when a soldier is raped by a fellow soldier. In Danna's case,there were 4 perpetrators, one of whom was her Company 1st Sergeant. Another was placed in her squad.
Subsequent to this trauma, Danna led this squad on a secret mission into the Middle East. She and her 4th perpetrator were two of the few to return alive.
My play asks, who do you have to become to forgive and move on with your life, when this has happened to you?
This is an eviscerating but ultimately life-affirming human story about one female soldier's experiences, and what healing and forgiveness really mean.
What's the action plan?
Heroine has been invited to be part of the United Solo festival (see footnote 1), hosted on Theatre Row in New York, on 42nd St, this October (www.Unitedsolo.org). We plan to rehearse and tour the show in Scotland this September, and then tour it to New York this fall. Public funding applications amounting to 75K have already been submitted, aligned with standards of best practice.
Putting together an unforgettable piece of theatre is an involved process. We've always felt that there is a direct correlation between the success and longevity of a show and a period of genuine research and development without the pressure of a performance first - to allow for radical creative exploration, before rehearsals begin.
What exactly is this kickstarter for?
We plan to do a research and development period in Scotland first - from June 1-5th this year, so that even before we start rehearsals we are hitting the ground running, with all this story needs. THIS is what we are raising funds from kickstarter for.
We have already got some of the money to do this. Heroine has been awarded a grant for research and development with Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA) through Creative ScotlandProducer's Project. (Yay!)
This kickstarter campaign is to raise the rest of the necessary funding. If successful, this kickstarter campaign does not guarantee that we will be able to bring Heroine to full production this year, but it gives us the best chance to lay the creative foundations for an unforgettable show, which we have a separate fundraising plan for.
We'd like to invite you come in at this early stage and help us! We're hoping that we can turn around in years to come and say that you were with us from the start.
Where did Heroine come from?
I wrote this play for Danna, for me and for everyone. It is not a polemic for or against war. I wrote from a sense of outrage at what Danna and so many men and women still endure in military culture both in the USA and in the UK, admiration for Danna’s character, and because I want to support her healing. Her truth needs to be out there and she was clearly ready to talk.
My bones said, 'Write.'
What is Military Sexual Trauma?
In the US, Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is when a soldier is raped by another soldier, sometimes by a superior. In the UK this is referred to as ‘Blue on Blue’ sexual trauma. Due to the complex and closed nature of the military justice systems in both countries, there is not the same access to justice for victims of sexual crimes as there might be in the civilian world - rape has become shockingly endemic as a result. (See www.invisiblewarmovie.com, and the resources page of the project’s website for statistics from the DOD’s Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members and the survivor stories from Protect Our Defenders.
It was always my concern that her collaborative process with Danna would maintain healthy boundaries. It must be healing for her, and equally allow me to tell her story in the way she needs to. Getting the story out there is very important to Danna, but it’s just as important to her that she is also not directly identified, so she can move on. As such we have worked slowly and carefully with a team of experts over two years. I optioned the life rights to Danna’s story until April 2016, with an option to further extend. It’s the right time to run with the project and invite in a team.
Its my hope that the profoundly cathartic power of this story has been woven into the play in a way that is accessible and gripping for an audience, and asks questions about what it means to be a heroine, a coward, a victim, a survivor, and what forgiveness is. Is it one sweeping act (as seems to be the case with Imaculee Ilibagiza, a Rwandan genocide survivor I met with? Or an everyday meditation for the rest of your life?
Heroine itself is not therapy, albeit therapeutic: political but not a piece of political agitprop: it stands alone as a piece of theatre about one soldier’s journey.
Danna’s MST is shared by 500,000 other survivors in the history of the US army, and stories like hers have largely been silenced by the culture of their dominant establishment - the military in the US / the armed forces in the UK. Heroine will give voice to the voiceless this way, by giving an audience an insight into a widespread problem from an underrepresented perspective. This play cuts through the media narratives about it and provides a visceral way for an audience to connect to a personal story, beyond a grim statistic, which means we cannot intellectually distance ourselves. Theatre’s magic is that it can ‘give voice’ to a character and in doing so can dramatically deepen the impact a story has on its audience. The more personal and authentic the acting and the writing are, the more universal the reach of that story can be.
Development so far?
In January 2014, Mary Jane and director Susan Worsfold undertook three days of development with actor David Walshe, in order to establish whether or not Heroine is really a solo show and not best served with a large cast.
Heroine was subsequently invited to submit to be performed for the UN in London in June 2014 at the Global Summit for Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, organised by Angelina Jolie and William Hague. The play was shortlisted to the final two, and, off the record, we were informed that the reason Heroine could not be selected to open the conference was because the play was too close the bone, due both to an inquest at the time into the suicide of UK soldier and MST survivor Anne Marie Ellement, and because the play’s subject matter would be embarrassing for the USA delegates who were going to be present in the audience. We were ever more convinced of the need for this story to see daylight.
What's the Creative Vision?
- The first strand of the creative vision for Heroine is the show’s sound design. We will experiment with the amplified and distorted sound experienced by a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sufferer, as it filters through a hyper vigilant nervous system, to create Danna’s solipsistic world. Sound will be used exclusively to create other characters: especially the modern day Greek chorus which will consist of two UK male actors who are former soldiers, and two from the US. The soundscape will be created by US sound designer Andrew Spence, who is interested in the neurological affect of sound as a tool for healing.
- The second strand is digital film projection to create a sense of location and bring some of the other characters in the play to life. The idea being that the closer a character comes to Danna as she retells and relives her story in the play, the more digitally embodied they are. UK designer Paul Burgess will collaborate with Andrew Spence and work with footage of Nayo Wallace playing another soldier, filmed at an LA 3-D studio.
- The third strand is a vocal technique called Nadine George Technique. (See footnote 1). Mary Jane has worked with Nadine George Technique (NGT) in her wheelhouse as an actor for a long time. With Ros Steen, former head of Centre for Voice in Performance (as research assistant), with Nadine herself for 14 years, with Parisian and Danish counterparts and her Glasgow-based successor and Voice Studio International (VSI) Associate, Susan Worsfold. Susan is one of only 12 accredited practitioners of the NGT in the world: of those, only 2 direct in Scotland. Both of us are committed to the authentic human connection demanded by the NGT - we both feel it facilitates the best acting we’ve seen in those who have worked with it, and lends itself to profoundly transformative experiences for both artist and audience. NGT is specifically suited to Heroine as the root of NGT lies with Alfred Wolfson, who was attempting to heal himself with this technique from the psychological scars and PTSD he suffered from WW1.
Arguably a character in its own right, silence in the play is both accomplice and protector, and the play explores what it means to hide and to find your voice. In life, the specific words we use to describe our experience of an event are of the utmost importance. They often mean we give a traumatic event the power to forever define us, (“I’ll never get over it”) whereas the power to change how we move through it is always present. NGT rests on an understanding of the power of the spoken word and authentic self expression: it's practice sensitises practitioners to the distinction between the chosen narratives about who they are and what they are capable of, and who they really are and what they are really capable of. NGT and this story are thematically compatible, as the play talks about the fact that forgiveness and healing seem impossible but can become possible. The play asks, if it's possible for Danna Davis, is it possible for you and me?
How will Heroine use kickstarter funds?
Investing in art pays off in many ways. You are coming in at the very start of the process. With this kickstarter campaign, we are putting seeds in the ground and seeing what takes root with the many ways we could tell this story. You donation resources us to objectively examine which of them is the best.
As a piece of theatre, Heroine will have the potential to facilitate conversations and create links across geographical divides. In doing so resources, models of best practice and knowledge can be shared. As a way to kick start this legacy, Mary Jane has linked with US non profit Save a Warrior. Adam Mager from Save a Warrior has already pledged that suicidal Scottish veterans can be treated through Save A Warrior’s therapy programme. He is also willing to discuss training a Scottish facility in these methods, which so far have 100% success rate. (Click here.) Through Heroine, he is now connected with Barry Henderson from Glasgow’s Helping Heroes. We are also exploring the possibility of mentorships for UK veterans as assistant stage managers in the Scottish leg of the production.
All of the box office for the New York show will be donated to Protect Our Defenders, a non profit who advocate purely on behalf of MST survivors in the US military.
Footnote 1: United Solo is a prestigious festival of solo work, (click here) attracting top level performers such as Fiona Shaw in The Testament of Mary, Daniel Beaty in Through the Night, John Lithgow in Stories by Heart, Patti LuPone in The Gypsy in My Soul, Robin Williams in Weapons of Self-Destruction, John Hurt in Krapp’s Last Tape, Hugh Jackman in Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway. Mary Jane was privileged to be in the first round of artists they invited this year.
Footnote 2: Nadine George is the founder of Voice Studio International (VSI) and has developed her own practical voice technique that can be used internationally by actors, voice teachers, directors and anyone wishing to develop their true voice. The work is unique, using the sung sound and linking this directly to the body and to work with text. In July 2008, Nadine received an Honorary Doctorate of Drama from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow for service to the arts and her lifetime contribution to work on the Human Voice on an international level. She has also worked with expert professionals in the Arts & Health to apply her technique within this sector. See www.voicestudiointernational.com and www.rcs.ac.uk/staff/nadine-george
Risks and challenges
The following risks have ben identified with completing this research and development period for the project:
1. Are there any work permit issues?
Mary Jane Wells is legally able to work in both countries.
2. What if going public triggers Danna Davis?
Danna has her own therapy team in case any aspect of her story ‘going public’ triggers her - and we have 'rehearsed' this with a reading and various situations which have tested this. She has been resourced already with a community of MST survivors who have previously spoken publicly about their experiences. Information on organisations and resources that can help with any issues which may arise for any supporters will be on hand and made available if the situation arises. Company members have been appropriately briefed. Any future show will have publicity which contains adequate warnings about triggering material.
3. Are there any legal ramifications attached to telling a story based on true military events?
An entertainment lawyer based in the US has drawn up a legal contract between Mary Jane Wells and Danna Davis.
This contract ensures that Heroine is protected from any kind of legal action in referencing real military events, where the places, dates and names have been changed. It also protects Mary Jane Wells’ copyright of the play, and lays down in clear and respectful terms the dissemination of potential profits.
4. How does sound design from a distance work?
LIvestreamed rehearsals will be sent to Andrew to watch in LA. Andrew will then work remotely on the sound and send appropriate files. We are kind of excited about the possibilities of this.. This method of working will be tested during this development week in June, and the learning will form the basis of any potential future cross cultural collaborations via remote working.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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