by creator and director Liz Lerman
I invite you into the world of Healing Wars, a project that has combined research, workshops and performance as a means of giving us all time to dwell on the meanings and implications of war. I have been joined in this evolving process by an amazing group of research sites, financial supporters and open-minded audiences with whom we have engaged for the past 32 months. The brilliant cast and designers have collaborated on questions big and small. The piece you see today would be entirely different if any one of them had not joined me.
This enterprise was instigated by the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. These big ceremonial moments are both an opportunity to rethink the past as well as to observe and discover who we are becoming. My initial quest was to find out more about what had happened to women during those Civil War years, believing that there was bound to be new scholarship on the subject since our centennial 50 years ago. There is.
I was fascinated by the documentation of women who dressed as men and entered the conflict as soldiers, as well as the nuns of Emmitsburg, Maryland, who were on the Gettysburg battlefield to aid, heal and baptize the fallen, which made me consider the relationship of spirit to healing and death. I also pursued the individual lives of nurse practitioners looking for them in diaries, books and at the most wonderful National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick. It was there, encountering a room of photographs of amputees, that I made the absolute link to our current wars.
What happens when the soldiers come home? If the soldiers are women is it different? What lingers in the wounds of the body and how do our minds accommodate what has happened? Although it seems that this line of inquiry is about those who fight, I was driven by the urgency of what is going on around us as our country has been at war for so long. I began to reflect about those of us whose fathers may have served, but whose families are now spared the brunt of this fight. I began to wonder about the nature of numbness within the civilian population.
Healing Wars is this performance that you are seeing. But it is also a series of events and encounters that I hope enables more thought, discussion and connection to the aftermath of what seems like endless battles. The project will continue to grow as we travel the country and bring these stories to life.
I thank all the people at Arena Stage and The National Civil War Project, for their early and ongoing support. Please be in touch with your questions, thoughts and responses.
(Photo: Tamara Hurwitz Pullman and Bill Pullman. Photo by Helen Shariatmadari)