SFC's 'Tales of Honor' airs the reality of living in battle


“Tales of Honor” with, from left, Eduardo Varona, Tommy Townsend and Brodie Atwater, is onstage through Saturday at the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall. (Courtesy photo)

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 3:22 p.m.

When Jack Lipoff completed his service with the Marine Corps in 2011 and returned to Gainesville, he didn't think part of his routine would involve putting Santa Fe College theater students through a daylong boot camp.

Facts

‘Tales of Honor'

What: Theatre Santa Fe original, mixed-media production recounts stories of men and women who fought in and returned from Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
When: 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday
Where: Fine Arts Hall, Santa Fe College, 3000 NW 83rd St.
Tickets: $15, $5 for veterans with ID, free for Santa Fe students with ID
Info: 395-4181

Students crawled in mud, learned how to hold a weapon and how to take orders as part of their training for this week's show, “Tales of Honor.”

“Within 30 minutes, they were all dead tired,” Lipoff says. “Then we pushed them for another three-and-a-half hours. I don't know what they all thought of it, but I think it helped them understand the life of a soldier.”

“Tales of Honor,” which opened Wednesday and runs through Saturday at the Santa Fe Fine Arts Hall, dives into the lives of soldiers when they enter war. Director Gregg Jones wants the show to expose the audience to the realities of war that go unnoticed when conflicts are only seen through the comfort of a television screen.

Jones began researching subject matter for his show during the summer of 2011, a few months after two students stopped in his office asking for an assignment extension. The students, both soldiers who had returned from Afghanistan, had lived with another veteran who had committed suicide.

“I saw the effect of this event on these young men,” he says, “and I realized I didn't really know what it was like to go to war.”

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22.7 million veterans lived in the U.S. as of 2010, or less than one percent of the population. The figure includes 1.5 million Floridians, with a little more than 17,500 veterans from Alachua County.

The play, split into separate monologues that chronicle issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and reintegrating into public life, fuses acting with multimedia elements.

In some cases, video footage will stream on the screen as cast members read letters recapping soldiers' experiences.

“Seeing a fire fight from a Marine's helmet tells the story more than what I could recreate on stage,” Jones says.

In other cases, Jones invited veterans like Scott Camil to sit in on rehearsals and train his 14-member cast to act like soldiers.

In one practice, Camil, a Vietnam veteran who served between March 1966 and November 1967 as a foreign observer reading maps and compasses to navigate soldiers through the jungles, taught students how to fill sandbags.

Students would push down on the shovels using both hands, Camil says, when soldiers only use one hand. They swing down quickly, lifting up the shovel and tossing the sand into a bag before repeating the process.

At the conclusion of Friday night's show, a seven-person panel will speak with audience members who want to discuss the lasting effects of war. Jones says he knows opinions about combat vary, and he wants to have an open forum for people to talk about their opinions.

The panelists include veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder experts and Camil, who is also president of Veterans for Peace.

“I want people to understand what it's like for a veteran,” Camil says. “I hope through watching the play and listening to the discussion, people will see what it's like for a soldier, and a soldier's family, friends and loved ones to deal with the reality of war and see that war lasts forever.”

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