Vietnam veterans share poetry and prose at Asheville Community Theatre, Oct. 7

Press release from Asheville Community Theatre: 

Asheville Community Theatre is pleased to present a reprise of Brothers Like These, a staged reading of prose and poetry produced by the creative writing program for Vietnam veterans at the Charles George VA Medical Center. Brothers Like These will be performed on the ACT Mainstage on Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 7:00 pm. The performance is free; however, reservations are required. A reception will follow. For tickets, please call the Asheville Community Theatre Box Office at 828-254-1320 or visit www.ashevilletheatre.org.

Writing programs have existed for veterans since the WWII era Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project.  They’ve grown in number over the past decade as health care providers, communities and veterans alike have looked for opportunities to honor the voices inside, and for creative ways to foster recovery and healing for wounds still carried. These stories of selfless service and unimaginable courage unite us in our shared humanity.

Ron Capps of the Veterans Writing Project is often quoted as saying “not everyone is a story teller, but everyone has a story to tell” and, “either you control the memory or the memory controls you.” Bringing the memories and feelings that continue to bang around on to paper can help veterans express and organize troublesome reminders, and by doing so often, bit by bit, begin to leave them behind.

With support from state and community organizations, the Charles George VA Medical Center has piloted a creative writing program for Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder led by past state Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti and primary care physician Dr. Bruce Kelly. The healing catalyzed through the men’s writing and sense of brotherhood proved transformative for the veterans, their families, and all privileged to participate.

Their writing led to a staged reading of the men reading their own prose and poetry held fall 2016 at Asheville Community Theatre, and again spring 2017 at Appalachian State University for Mr. Bathanti’s Veterans Arts & Humanities Collective. The October 7 event will be the men’s third public performance of their writing. In addition, the writing group published a book of their work also called “Brothers Like These” (St. Andrew’s University Press/ 2017); copies of the book will be available for purchase at October 7 event.

Those who attend will join a growing community committed to bearing witness and honoring the stories and sacrifice of what these men have carried 50 years after a war they were called to as very young men, and in the end a shared experience of healing and humanity. The veterans’ stories have informed, moved, and inspired all who’ve attended, and reflected the experience of all who served in Vietnam, and by proxy all combat theaters before and since.

The evening will be sponsored by Asheville Community Theatre, funders the North Carolina Arts Council, North Carolina Humanities Council, and the Asheville Area Arts Council new “Veterans Arts & Wellness Program.” The event is free but ticketed, and a reception will follow the performance. Tickets may be reserved by calling the ACT Box Office at 828-254-1320 or online at www.ashevilletheatre.org.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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