When Todd Farnsworth first heard the stories coming out of the Brookfield Institute’s writing workshop for veterans, he was floored. Then he was energized.
He and the veterans wanted more people to hear these stories. They started tossing out ideas of how to make this happen and, thanks to Farnsworth’s work in community theater, a play was born.
“Originally, we thought we’d just have actors reading them, sitting on barstools, under a spotlight,” said Farnsworth, now the pastor at Briarcliff Congregational Church in Briarcliff Manor, NY. “Then I remembered reading about productions just like that elsewhere and said, ‘How about a real play?’”
JS, Hobbs agreed to write the story that would be turned into the play. Sam Farnsworth, a recent graduate of Boston University’s Theatre Arts program, turned the story into a play. Performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10-11, 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 12, 4 p.m., at Monson Memorial Hall. Tickets are available here A special performance is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m., at the Majestic Theatre in West Springfield. Call the box office, 413-747-7797, for tickets.
The characters in “Welcome Home” are at their weekly card game, partaking in the usual chit-chat. One character has something happen that makes the group start sharing more deeply.
What struck Todd Farnsworth the first time he heard the veterans’ stories was the intimacy. “They are talking about things you usually don’t hear,” he said. There’s some humor, some pain, and stories about the struggle of coming home and finding your place.
The “Welcome Home” play features stories from four local veterans. Three served overseas and one served in the U.S. There are stories from three men and one woman; hence the play’s characters are three men — Liam, from the war in Iraq; Shelly, also Iraq; and Tom and Ron, Vietnam veterans. The veterans want to remain anonymous, because their stories will be told in front of friends and neighbors, Farnsworth said, so the play characters have different names. For the most part, their stories in the play are the same stories the veterans wrote in the writing workshop, although the “lines have been blurred a bit” so details wouldn’t be too identifying.
Todd Farnsworth, who is producing the play, said he particularly enjoyed getting to know the four veterans throughout the process of bringing their stories to the stage. “They carry with them the weight of their service,” he said. He also admits there’s a communication gap, because Farnsworth didn’t serve. One of the stumbling blocks was the jargon, the acronyms used by the military. “We’re going to have a glossary in the program,” Farnsworth smiled. “We didn’t want to change their language, but we wanted civilians to understand.”
It takes a lot of courage to put your story out there, and a couple of the storytellers found the process overwhelming, Farnsworth said. “It shook them up, so we talked about what was uncomfortable. We made adjustments to the play until they were satisfied. They’re proud of their stories.”
And we know they’re courageous, Farnsworth said. “They proved that with their service.”