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Posted Sep 23, 2010, 11:14 am
Nothing is more powerful than the truth. That premise is proven in "Coming In Hot" an emotionally charged one-woman show based on an anthology of women's writings about their military experiences.
It all started out as a question at a writers' conference. After hearing a male veteran read his work, Shannon Cain, fiction editor at Kore Press, wondered where were the stories of women who had served in the recent conflicts.
Founded in 1993, Tucson's Kore Press specializes in literary and artistic works by women and has published more than 60 original books, broadsides and audio cds.
This led Cain and Kore Press Publisher Lisa Bowden to solicit material for what become "Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks from Vietnam to Iraq," published in 2008.
"We quickly realized this was a big project beyond our original scope," says Bowden. "Our very naive thoughts were that any woman who goes off to war is going to come back a peace activist and that's not the case. So our job as editors since then has been to represent the work and get it to be as stellar and clear as it possibly can be."
When Cain read a portion of the book at a meeting, actress Jeanmarie Simpson advised her that it could be a powerful theatre piece. The resulting work now showcases Simpson, the founding Artistic Director of the Nevada Shakespeare Company, in a one-woman show of fifteen different people's experiences in the military.
"We had a very light editorial touch," says Bowden. "We realized that we were record keepers, and that really carried over in the play as well. The contributors have been in the audience and they keep you very honest."
"Coming In Hot" has two final Tucson performances before moving on to a national tour. The Friday, Sept. 24 performance at the UA Poetry Center is free; the Sunday, Sept. 26 presentation is a $100 a plate dinner and fund raiser.
The play has changed significantly over the past year. It now includes additional material not in the original book to provide a fuller range and more dramatic structure. Musician Vicki Brown created a soundtrack that underscores the various characters. Over the course of working with the material, it has morphed from a traditional play to a staged reading and become all the more effective for its lack of artifice.
"The script evolved during presentations," says Bowden, who also morphed from editor into the play's director. "We found that the work is just as powerful, and maybe more so, when it's focused more on the language."
"Coming In Hot" is not a neatly tied package with a simple message. In fact, the emotional responses from the audience can be alarmingly complex and intense, ranging from anger to catharsis. Issues are raised, and not necessarily resolved, regarding gender politics, rape, death, feminine archetypes, homosexuality, motherhood and more.
The Friday presentation includes a post-performance scholars discussion with Laura Gronewold, Fenton Johnson, Adela Licoma, Sheila Tobias and Kathleen Williamson.
Having lived with the material for more than three years, Bowden is proud of the new shape it has taken and the experience she has created with Simpson, Cain and Brown.
"Reading a book is a very private experience,” she notes. "This is a communal event."