by Artistic Director Molly Smith
The role of the artist is to tell the truth. Any art made about history is really art about the present. Liz Lerman has created a beautiful meditation on the relationship of war and medicine — of fighting and healing — in this unique fusion of drama and movement.
Healing Wars is a leading component of The National Civil War Project, a five-city, three-year dynamic collaboration between theaters and universities focusing on the American Civil War and contemporary civil wars to coincide with the war’s 150th anniversary. The entire project came from Liz Lerman’s inspiration. Liz had been reading scholarship on the role of women in our Civil War and was intrigued to discover that there were over 400 documentations of women cross-dressing to become soldiers. Like so many of us, she was struggling to comprehend rape as a weapon of war in contemporary civil wars and the ongoing strife in the Middle East. She was confronted by a history of civil war that continues to live in the present. Recent political developments in Russia and Ukraine underscore the timeliness of examining the ramifications of civil unrest.
America continues to be moved and shaped by the Civil War. It is in the blood lines of our country. Yet few truly understand its profound influence on our culture. From the green mountains of Vermont to the wilds of the western frontier, communities were deeply wounded. Farms became battlefields. Plantations became graveyards.
The National Civil War Project is designed to cross boundaries through commissioning new theater and dance works, stirring learning between disciplines. Our goal is to give our communities opportunities to discuss, feel, empathize and regret in ways we long for but are hard to find in our current civic dialogue. University classrooms and rehearsal halls become laboratories. Practicing professional artists can be inspired and learn new ways of thinking from academics, and scholarly ideas move off the shelf and into our consciousness.
The journey within Healing Wars takes us from the bloodiest of America’s conflicts to Iraq and Afghanistan. As the audience moves between the wars represented in the piece, we will discover that it really does not matter which century we are in — the questions being asked are timeless.
As with the leaders so recently portrayed in Lawrence Wright’s Camp David, now is the time to take the lessons of the past and create a peaceful future: to find healing in these stories of war.