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Lovers, they enlist in wars too
Saying goodbye to those who may never return
A few thoughts and an excerpt from We Are the Body as we approach Remembrance Day.
I’m moved when I see the bright pop of red that starts to appear at the end of October on coats and sweaters in Canada. The poppy is a symbol of remembrance that we wear each year to honour members of the armed forces who serve and those who have paid the ultimate price.
At our kids’ school they teach and recite the haunting poem In Flanders Fields, written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, which goads us to not forget those who fought for their country and our freedoms.
Today I think of Christine Gauthier, who Matt, Dan and I connected with in our recent docuseries. A Canadian military veteran, Paralympic world champion and Queens Diamond Jubilee Recipient. Christine served Canada honourably but faces great challenges today in life after the military. She’s salt of the earth.
If you are a veteran or currently serving and you’re reading this: Thank you. If you’re a family member of someone who serves or served: Thank you.
Goodbyes against the backdrop of war
This week, with freedom on my mind, I thought I’d share a scene with you from my play We Are the Body which is set in Romania after the Second World War.
The scene I want to share is about two lovers, whose happy and carefree lives are suddenly disrupted by war. Elise, an artist and agnostic, loyal to her art and uninterested in patriotism, is horrified to learn that her sensitive and gentle lover Ionel has enlisted to fight in a war that can’t be won.
It’s one of my favourite moments in the play. In part because it emerged out of a playwright workshop in which I was challenged to write a scene in which the characters can only speak two words at a time. The writing exercise brought the scene to life, and in We Are the Body, this is an emotional centre of the hard-hitting story.
So I share it today as one way to imagine the great emotional and relational implications for individuals and for families who serve. I hope you enjoy it.
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Setting up the scene
In the scene the audience gets a glimpse at Richard’s backstory. Like Elise, he is imprisoned in solitary confinement in a Romanian jail, captured by the secret police when he illegally preached a sermon.
Throughout the play Elsie and Richard tap out messages in Morse code from the confines of their lonely cells. As unseen companions, the sounds of their tapping bring them back into memories from their former lives (the tapping becomes the sound of footsteps, gunfire, a hammer hammering, rain falling against a window).
In this scene Elsie remembers a moment with her fiancee Ionel, and Richard a the fateful moment with his wife Sabina and the secret police.
Read the full scene:
Thanks for reading.
About We Are the Body
We Are the Body had a public reading in Rosebud, Alberta in November of 2012. The play was developed in part through a Scripts At Work Playwright Circle led by Gordon Pengilly in 2012. The Burnt Theatre production of the play toured Western Canada in 2015. It was nominated for three Calgary Theatre Critics Awards, including Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Script.
“At a time when the planet is boiling over with religious conflict, We Are the Body dramatizes the redemptive power of faith in a way [that] is universal.” — Calgary Herald
We Are the Body couldn’t be more relevant and unsettling.” — Calgary Sun