Friday, July 7, 2017

War and the Moral Deserter: From Hair to Treffpunkt to Letter of Intention

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By Natalie Lifson

           Art reflects and affects society. Different forms of media often reveal attitudes and insecurities of the times. For example, during the Vietnam War, many conscientious objectors and selective conscientious objectors banded together to burn draft cards to protest the war. The hit Broadway musical Hair revolves around Claude, a pacifist, who must decide to either ship out to Vietnam or to resist the draft. Similarly, an episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Road Less Travelled,” details the doubts of a draft-dodger. The protagonist, a pacifist who burns his Vietnam draft card, meets an alternate version of himself in which he lost legs in the war.

        A conscientious objector is someone who believes war to be immoral and therefore refuses to fight or otherwise support the existence of any war. According to U.S. military protocol, conscientious objection is defined as “a firm, fixed, and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and/or belief.” Basically, if one’s moral or religious values teach them that war is immoral, then one is not required by law to contribute to it but only if they are opposed to any and all wars.

         Often, soldiers will become a conscientious objector or a selective conscientious objector as a result of their experiences in war. While some soldiers then apply for conscientious objector status, others become overwhelmed and desert; in such cases, they would be considered AWOL (absent without leave). Sometimes, AWOL soldiers are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and sent to military mental hospitals, such as the case in Letter of Intention by Richard A.F. Wien. Other times, if soldiers are deemed mentally sound, they are sent to prisons on military bases called brigs. After their sentences, they are forced to return to their positions in combat. 

          Treffpunkt, a play by Natalie Lifson, follows Richard, a WWII veteran struggling with PTSD, and Henry, a WWI veteran who shows Richard that his future might not be so dim after all. In addition to being former soldiers, Richard and Henry also bond over being deserters. Treffpunkt will be playing at the Strawberry One Act Festival on 7/14, 7/17, and 7/22, and 7/26 at the Theatre at St. Clement’s. 

           Letter of Intention, a play by Richard A.F. Wien, details the experience of a young soldier in a nameless war who, after vocally objecting to war, is sent to a military mental hospital. Letter of Intention, which will premiere at the Strawberry Theatre Festival on 7/21, 7/23, and 7/26 at the Theatre at St. Clement’s, is a dynamic take on pacifism, war, and the human psyche.

Directed by Charles Casano
A fact based play that explores such enduring subjects as the arguments for and against fighting, the importance of camaraderie among those in harm’s way, and the damage caused by wounds that cannot be seen (PTSD).
Friday, July 21st at 6:00pm
Wednesday, July 26th at 7:00pm
Saturday, July 29th at 8:30pm
Tickets: $25 Online, $27 at the Box Office
Premium Seats: $30 Online, $35 at the Box Office

At the Theatre at St. Clement's
423 West 46th Street, NYC
Between 9th & 10th Avenue

For tickets click here.

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