November 14, 2017
With 2,000 veterans and active duty military members attending UCCS, chances are students have interacted with someone affiliated with the military at some point.
But what some students may not understand is how student veterans and active duty military members may face an entirely different set of challenges.
This semester, assistant theater professor Max Shulman created the HomeFront Theatre Project, which uses theater to help active duty members, veterans and their families cope with the challenges associated with the military.
“A lot of what we talk about in theater studies and in academia overall is what voices get heard and what voices don’t get heard,” said Shulman.
“The thought was that through the HomeFront Theatre Project, we could express the voices of the military population that aren’t being heard.”
A reading of “Shakespeare’s War” will be featured in the premiere of the project at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15. The reading, which will be held in the third floor apse of the Kraemer Family Library, expresses Shakespeare’s thoughts on war.
“What do you do if you’re a soldier and you think the cause immoral? What does trauma look like, how do we experience it, and how can we understand it from an outside perspective? These are things that Shakespeare talks about,” said Shulman.
HomeFront aims to generate discussions by presenting readings of both classic and contemporary plays performed by professional actors hired by Shulman.
In doing so, members of the project hope to raise awareness about issues veterans face and provide a space for military members to share experiences.
“I moved to Colorado Springs a year ago and to the right of my house is a Korean war vet, across the street is a Vietnam war vet, and to my left is a Blackhawk helicopter pilot,” said Shulman.
“I want to create something that all three of them can be engaged with.”
Student veteran Dong Kim has helped with the project because he believes it will be beneficial to the military community.
“HomeFront can be a stepping stone for veterans to look back at themselves and see their mistakes, how they are coping with stress, and how they can cope effectively instead of committing suicide or depending on drugs or alcohol,” he said.
Suicide is one of the biggest concerns for military veterans, according to Kim.
“Right now in the veteran community, our biggest issue is suicide; 22 veterans commit suicide a day, and that’s a lot. In order to fix that, veterans need guidance,” he said.
Shulman and the Theatre and Dance Program have been developing the project with the help of the Office of Veteran and Military Student Affairs and a student team in the Bachelor of Innovation degree program.
Members of the BI team, including senior sociology major William Rich, investigated the potential interest of the project along with giving advice on how to move the program forward.
“We put out a survey, and we’ve gotten about 130 responses so far to see how interested people are about the HomeFront program. It’s been targeted at veterans, active duty military and families of active duty military members,” said Rich.
According to Rich, the response so far has been positive.
Though the HomeFront Theater Project focuses on the issues surrounding military members, Shulman and Kim stress that the program is open to everyone. All of the HomeFront Theatre Project events are free and open to the public.
“It’s a really good opportunity for our student veterans to attend, and not just our student veterans, but anybody with a trauma,” said Kim. “A lot of people don’t know how to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
Shulman, who is not a veteran, hopes that members of the military community will take advantage of the program. He plans to expand the project out into the community as the project grows.
“We’re doing things at UCCS focusing on our students as well as Colorado Springs. But I really do hope that we end up on a base,” said Shulman.
Future HomeFront events will include “Eliot, A Soldier’s Fugue” on Dec. 6 at Pikes Peak Library 21(c). and Sophocles’ “Ajax” at the Ent Center in March. These events plan on including talks from military affairs experts.