Shakespeare’s Words Heal Modern Warriors
THE LOUISVILLE VET CENTER, IN Kentucky, offers support groups, counseling and employment assistance for veterans. Starting in spring 2016, it added something unexpected: Shakespeare With Veterans.
The group arose from a conversation between Matt Wallace, the producing artistic director of Kentucky Shakespeare, and Fred Johnson, a retired Army colonel. Matt works with a group that uses Shakespeare’s plays to help prison inmates develop life skills. Fred, a big fan of the Bard, thought a similar program could help veterans readjust to civilian life. “No one speaks more directly to the warrior’s heart than William Shakespeare,” he says.
Matt and Fred got rehearsal space at the vet center. Amy Attaway, Kentucky Shakespeare’s associate artistic director, took on the role of director and facilitator. Then they got the word out to veterans.
Army combat veteran Cassie Boblitt had tried to push away her experiences in Iraq. She didn’t stay in touch with anyone she’d deployed with in 2003. She got an MBA and a job in hotel management. Her hard work enabled her family to buy a nice house. Then in 2014, a neighborhood domestic dispute shattered her sense of security and brought back unsettling memories of Iraq. Cassie had trouble focusing at work. Within a year, she ended her marriage, sold her house and left the corporate world. In 2016, she was diagnosed with PTSD. “I realized no one would understand but fellow veterans,” she says. “As soon as I became open to reconnecting to the military, I saw Colonel Johnson’s post.”
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