Connecting Veterans to the Community they Served

Friday, July 29, 2016

“No one in the English language speaks more directly to the veteran experience and the warrior’s heart than William Shakespeare.”—Colonel Fred Johnson, USA Retired

The arts continue to provide our returning servicemen and women an opportunity for expression, focus, and comradery through Shakespeare’s soldiers, who have become a model for the moral injury and conflicting emotions returning veterans experience. Kentucky Shakespeare’s “Shakespeare with Veterans” brings service members together as a band of brothers and sisters, and provides the opportunity for comradery and a higher sense of purpose—attributes that may be missed during the military transition to civilian life. The program's mission is to connect military veterans to the community they served on the Kentucky Shakespeare stage through the words and historical plays of William Shakespeare.

Participants in the program get to know each other and feel a safe space evolve to share stories of service that can be good or bad, and discuss experiences of their time in and out of service. Working together as a team under the direction of Kentucky Shakespeare’s directors, the inaugural group began in March 2016. Consisting of five women and eight men, the first group represents the Army, Air Force, and Navy with veterans from Vietnam, Desert Storm, the Cold War, and OIF & OEF (Operation Iraqi Freedom & Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan) with former ranks from Sergeant to Brigadier General. This year’s program debuted a pre-show performance on the Kentucky Shakespeare stage in Louisville’s Central Park on July 17.

The next program begins August 4, with weekly meetings every Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Vet Center in downtown Louisville. The program is free for participants, thanks to donors and community partners. To develop this Shakespeare program for Veterans, Kentucky Shakespeare is collaborating with Athena Sisters, an organization of military women, and the Louisville Vet Center.

For more information please visit the Kentucky Shakespeare’s “Shakespeare with Veterans” program website or contact Colonel Fred Johnson, USA Retired, at fjohson@fundforthearts.org.

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