Healing through Theatre Practices

Friday, September 1, 2017

In August 2017, the Tennessee Shakespeare Company began working with Veterans at the Memphis VA Medical Association. This program brings together service Veterans with theatre practitioners to use the plays of Shakespeare in addressing combat-related traumatic and re-integration issues. The model, created by the Feast of Crispian Project in Milwaukee, WI, was created to strengthen the personal psychological resources available to service veterans - especially those with post-deployment health issues - through the practice and skills of theatre combined with the timeless themes and imagistic language of Shakespeare.

“The well-being of America’s Veterans is of the utmost importance to us in VA,” said Memphis Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center Director, David K. Dunning.  “By working with Tennessee Shakespeare Company, whose goal is to address combat-related traumatic issues through acting and theatre practices, we are able to positively impact post-deployment health issues of many Veterans.”

The Tennessee Shakespeare Company’s Education Manager Carmen-maria Mandley initiated the partnership with the Memphis Veterans Administration Medical Association by personally approaching Director Dunning.  A Shakespearean actress and scholar for 22 years, Mandley will be working with approximately 16 Veterans, once a week, in the Chemical Dependency Clinic (CDC).  Mandley, who stresses that she is not a clinician, sees her involvement with Veterans as more service than performance, as the Veterans learn to communicate and articulate thoughts and feelings through their exposure to Shakespeare.  Veterans in the program begin to make eye contact and form satisfying relationships with others in the program, ultimately defining recovery for themselves.

The Tennessee Shakespeare Company in Memphis and the Feast of Crispian Project in Milwaukee are both listed in the National Initiative Directory of the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military at Americans for the Arts.  The National Initiative Directory represents artists, arts organizations, medical facilities (public or private), researchers, and funders actively engaged in advancing the arts of any discipline for the health and well-being of active duty service members, Veterans, their families, and caregivers throughout the military continuum.