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Feast of Crispian: Helping Veterans Channel Emotions Through Shakespeare

Photo by Sara Stathas
Milwaukee Magazine
Jim Tasse guides Jan Masalewicz in an acting exercise.

Almost two-and-a-half years ago, we first learnedabout a novel program that uses the characters and lines of Shakespeare to work with veterans suffering from PTSD and a range of other mental health and reintegration issues. 

That program, Feast of Crispian, was begun by local theater artists, led by Nancy Smith-Watson.  The program has continued and will present a program called “And Comes Safe Home,” at the end of this month. The production will include scenes from Shakespeare, as well as additional material written by the veterans.

"They will feed them the lines, they'll say a line, the vet will repeat it (hopefully with flair) and they will drop in context. So they'll kind of be Shakespeare translators," explains writer Claire Hanan, who wrote the feature on the Feast of Crispian for the September issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

"The point is really to help them process some emotions in a really safe space that they wouldn't otherwise have that environment to do so," Hanan explains. "It's different from talk therapy...this can kind of let them explore emotions of anger, rage, frustration, humor, of course, guilt - and then it's over. They get to have these little bursts of that and get through it, it's over, and they're OK."

"And Comes Safe Home" will be performed at UW-Milwaukee's main stage theater space on September 29th, 30th, October 1st and 2nd.  There will also be a veteran's only pre-view on Sep. 28th at 7pm.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.