The Theatre of War
The following is excerpted from an August 2015 interview in the Juilliard Journal, in which doctoral student Christopher Herbert interviewed NMA Founding Artistic Director, John Farmanesh-Bocca, about his work.
At one point, Herbert observed, as many do, that NMA has a particular affinity for plays about war. He asked John about it, and here's what John said:
I'm from a military family. In addition, my interest comes from the fact that for 222 of the 239 years of our Union, we have been at war. War is here. It's our lives.
I am of mixed nationality -- American and Iranian. This combination makes me hyper-aware, as an artist, of what is happening in the world right now. War is a life-and-death struggle; it is therefore intrinsically dramatic. It exemplifies the ugliness of man, but also illustrates some of the greatest humanity, kindness, and sacrifice.
I strongly believe that one of the most valuable things a soldier can salvage through war is his/her humanity. By the same token, two of the most valuable things an artist can maintain in the world are humility and empathy. There is a striking dichotomy for both soldiers and artists: the balance between a necessary tough hide and a sensitive relationship with humanity and life.
After [the first run of] Ajax, we did weekly talkbacks with a group called New Directions, which is mostly run by patriotic, anti-war women who primarily help female vets with PTSD and other trauma, but also a good number of men. These sessions were eye-opening and continued to educate us after the curtain went down. We found it helpful to put all of the emotions and energy we created in the audience to good use by giving them an opportunity outlet to get involved locally by donating clothes and time, and a number of our company members continue to do workshops and volunteer work at New Directions