The Suffolk University Theatre Department remounts At Ease, its original play about the American veteran experience, at the Modern Theatre as part of Boston’s first Outside the Box summer arts festival.
Performances take place at at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 13, and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 14, at Suffolk University's Modern Theatre.
To create At Ease, Professor Caitlin Langstaff matched seven veterans with seven actors. The students spent time getting to know one another and taping interviews that would eventually turn into monologues. As the monologues developed, so did relationships between the actors and vets.
Closing a divide
“When I was paired with [wounded Marine veteran] Ryan, I didn't know we'd become such good friends,” says recent graduate Jillian Couillard. “When we first met, I told him I would only shoot a gun in the event of a zombie apocalypse – I realize now how clueless that sounds, but I never thought I'd be capable of shooting an M4 with him at a shooting range!”
Senior Gabby Womack joined the production hoping to gain insight into her own brother and uncle, both veterans. She has “had trouble connecting with them because they don't want to dwell on their deployments or even discuss these issues at all.”
Suffolk Theatre major and Army veteran Jim Mihelidakis knows how hard it is to relive those experiences. He wrestles with the concept of “readjustment” and wonders if being a soldier is a lifelong part of his identity.
“When you're used to seeing signs every day in a war zone that say ‘Complacency Kills’ it’s impossible to not be changed by that, not to lose your ability to be carefree,” he says.
"Safe space" to recall service
At Ease has been a cathartic experience for Mihelidakis, who has had trouble opening up about his experiences in Iraq. The “safe communication space” Langstaff fostered among the students is a major factor in this transformation. Student actor Jake Athyal agrees:
“We feel honored that they trust us to tell their stories, and we genuinely hope this is a positive step towards creating better understanding between vets and other students at Suffolk.”
The show runs at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 13, and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 14, at Suffolk University's Modern Theatre located at 525 Washington Street, Boston. Tickets are free. Reservations are recommended and may be made at www.moderntheatre.com. Donations will be accepted at the door to benefit a scholarship for academically qualified students who are veterans of the U.S. military or descendants of U.S. veterans. The scholarship was created in 2000 by Suffolk alumni and World War II veterans John J. McCarthy, BSB ’49, and Michael Linquata, BSB ’50, who attended Suffolk University on the G.I. Bill.