College of Human Ecology Press Release
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
A dozen middle-school students take the stage this month, performing a play they created on a topic they know well: children of military families.
“Serving at Home” centers on Chloe, a teenage girl whose mother gets deployed. It also features Chloe’s younger sister and grandfather, creating a multi-generational focus. The play builds on the problems the family faces and the eventual breaking point.
The interactive theater workshop is the work of the School of Family Studies and Human Services, the Department of Speech Communication, Theater and Dance and members of the Manhattan community.
Giving youth a voice
“This project was done with great care,” said Sally Bailey, associate professor of speech communication, theater and dance.
“It has a strong but authentic message,” added Elaine Johannes, assistant professor of family studies and human services and Extension specialist in youth development.
Johannes and Bailey worked with Alissa Duncan, Registered Drama Therapist, to build the workshop.
Duncan, who has a master’s degree from K-State in drama therapy, said she wanted to create a script that got the thoughts of the kids across without sounding artificial.
The adolescents who volunteered for the workshop discussed the cycle of deployment — pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment. “They talked about the feelings they had and the issues they faced during these times. We brainstormed and improvised different scenes and eventually put those into a kind of order. This ended up becoming the basis for the play,” Duncan said.
Telling the truth
The resulting script is beautiful and the relationships are very real, Bailey said.
“The play shows adolescent anger, typical adolescent immaturity and much family love,” she added. “It’s not often that people who are going through an experience are asked to reflect on it, especially in an artistic medium.”
Johannes said she has been stunned by the way the interactive theater project has allowed the students to open up and have a voice. “It allows the children to express their emotions in a safe and creative way,” she said.
Topic seldom explored through art
“Through this process, I’ve learned that the family side of war isn’t something that’s really been explored in literature,” Bailey said. “For thousands of years, only the glory part of a soldier’s experience was explored and only recently has the traumatic side of that experience been explored. But, the family has usually been left out.”
After seeing the play and receiving feedback through the discussion, military, family development and community-action experts will brainstorm about what the community can do to aid the families, Johannes said.
Eventually, the project members will create a guide to serve as a resource that other communities could use when creating an interactive
“I see this as a springboard for doing this work nationally. It is unique that we are tackling this difficult issue,” she said.
May stagings and sponsors
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. May 16 and 17 at the Manhattan Arts Center, 1520 Poyntz Ave. Bailey will lead discussion after the performances.
The play is free, but seating is limited and some content may not be appropriate for young children. More information is available by calling 785-532-1905 or 785-532-7720.
A National 4-H Headquarters/USDA and Army Child and Youth Services grant funded the Speak Out for Military Kids Interactive Theater project, part of K-State’s Operation Military Kids program that helps military-connected youth cope with the stress that often comes with dealing with a military relative who is deployed. Bronwyn Fees, associate professor, and Deb Sellers, assistant professor, also are members of the state project team.