The American War Experience through California Voices held a virtual performance reading called “Here and There” on Nov. 13. The production aimed to represent Cal Poly Pomona’s Iraq and Afghanistan military-affiliated students by sharing their personal experiences, unveiling their vulnerability and garnering showers of support from the audience.
Through the virtual performance, the audience caught a glimpse into the lives of the military community that the media does not often show. The performance began with reporters wanting to interview members of the Veterans Resource Center and get “juicy details.” Instead, the reporters ended up learning about the members’ personal lives — from their experiences welcoming back family members who became disabled to the depression that comes after returning home.
Veterans Services Associate Coordinator Kimberlin Kataya said that she wanted students to see that the people in the military are more than what is shown on the news by revealing the personal experiences of those who have families in the military.
“For somebody who doesn’t have experience with the military or veterans, there’s a preconceived notion that comes from media,” said Katayama. “However, they choose to process the media interpretation, which is why the interviewer in the play kind of had all those stereotypical thoughts rolled into one.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the actors of the production were not able to perform the readings on stage but through Zoom.
Some members of the cast participated in the play hoping that it would provide an opportunity to the military-affiliated population at CPP to have their voices heard.
Cast member Kendall Haun, a graduate student majoring in public administration and a military affiliate whose father was in the United States Air Force, discussed how participating in the play felt bittersweet.
“Reading the lines made me feel uncomfortable in a good way. I could feel the growth happening by being out of my comfort zone,” said Haun “I also felt honored to have gotten to participate.”
The reading shed a light on the fact that those in the military are not machines being sent out, but they are people who are scared — scared for what the future entails and for their loved ones. The performance critiqued the media’s perspective of those in the military and showed how it’s not as glamorous as it seems because there are soldiers who do not come back as the same person.
While watching the performance, many of the audience — consisting of 41 students and staff —felt strongly about the topics that were covered which ranged from family members being gone for months at a time to post-traumatic stress disorder.
“As the daughter of a USMC Vietnam veteran, I felt connected to a lot of what was expressed. I could relate to almost every piece in some way,” said Kim McAllister, a staff member at the Student Support and Equity Programs.
After the production, the cast and audience held a Q&A segment discussing parts of the play that resonated with them. The event boasted a strong turnout with the audience members who were moved by the vulnerability of the cast, flooding the chat box with praises.
The audience also provided suggestions on topics that should be covered in the next performance, like how the military deals with sexual harassment and assault.
The Veterans Resource Center will host another event on Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. featuring two student veterans who will be leading a discussion in the “Future of War.” An email will be sent out to the CPP community with the registration announcement.
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