VETERANS-in-TRANSITION from HOMELESSNESS Created THEIR OWN THEATER BUSINESS
Essay by David M. Boje, Ph.D. March 7, 2014; revised Mar 26, 2015
Essay by David M. Boje, Ph.D. March 7, 2014; revised Mar 26, 2015
GOAL: To raise a total of $3,000 to put on three theater productions where formerly homeless veterans present "Life of Veterans in America."
Our next production ( 'Dead While Waiting for My VA Appointment!’) is APRIL 30th 5:30PM-630PM at NMSU Center for Performing Arts. Tickets $6 Students, $12 Adults (lodge), & $25 (Front Row). Order tickets online at CrowdSource Project: GoFundMe.com/mol1wc or call Dr. Boje at 575-936-9578. Or, order tickets by mail: send check to Dr. Boje 4700 Dunn Drive. Las Cruces, New Mexico 88011. We can mail you back your tickets or you can pick them up at the theater (1000 E University Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88003).
Here is link to our first public live performance held March 18 2015 in case you missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVw49dNWJYE&feature=youtu.be
Above NMSU professors Dr. Erika Gergerich and Dr. David Boje, directing Veterans Theater
My name is David M. Boje Ph.D. I am a Storytelling Change Agent, Amateur Blacksmith, & ‘Wells Fargo’ Chaired Professor at New Mexico State University, and Aalborg University awarded me their Honorary Doctorate and affiliated me with Material Storytelling Lab, Denmark. I am working with Dr. Erika Gergerich from NMSU Social Work to direct theater productions with the Veterans from Community of Hope.
The MGT375v (Sustainable Development and Global Environment) students (Areej, Luke, Sharron, & Meshal), the Veterans of Community of Hope (Ernst, Sykes, Johh Hawk, BA, Michael, and Dr Erika Gergerich’s social work students (Jen Kitcey, Maxie ...) are creating a SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS called ‘VETERANS’ THEATER’.
The "Veterans’ Theater” business is putting on plays in university, public school, and community theaters --- to paying customers.
"In case you forgot, the VA is still terrible. Despite a Los Angeles VA official claiming their new wait times were four days—it turns out it’s really more like 44 days." --- Jon Stewart skewers the VA’s 44-day-long wait times...
Watch below or click here:
"The Choice Program, which was put in place to speed access to medical care after it was revealed that some patients had been waiting months for treatment, allows veterans who live far from VA facilities to get out-of-network care closer to home." More
Our project is creating economic sustainability for Las Cruces homeless veterans in transitional living at Camp Hope and Oak St. start their own business. We are doing this by fund raising events and by crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is a way social entrepreneurs process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by seeking contributions from a large group of people. Here is a YouTube of a rehearsal of Act IV: ‘Why VA if Full of Madness'
Veterans Theater — For more information, see http://peaceaware.com
Or contact Professor David M. Boje, Management
Department, NMSU, email@example.com 575-936-9578 (cell)
VETERANS' THEATER REHAEARSAL LOCATION: Community of Hope's Veteran's Transitional Living, 3350 Oak Street, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88005-3784
We did our first performance at Sweet CeCe's on 18 March 2015 at 7PM. It was a sell out crowd, an evening of laughter and critical merriment. We raised $200. We did our tabling at the El Paseo Wal-Mart in Las Cruces March 21 2015 and raised another $130. Togother with the GoFundMe crowdsourding we have raised over $1,000. We are now 1/3rd of the way to our goal: To raise $3,000 for the theater rental fees, set construction costs, and printing costs we have for 2015. Give to http://GoFundMe.com/mol1wc
Above are VETERANS THEATER performers (Maxie & Jen from NMSU Social Work with David, Michael & John (3 veterans) at fundraiser owned by a Vietnam veteran, located at Las Cruces 901 East University Ave, Suite B Las Cruces, NM 88003. Here is the Sweet CeCe Event Flyer created by NMSU Marketing Student Areej Gardi.
Above is BA, Ernst (holding mic), John Hawk, Alex & Christopher (holding signs), & Sykes (wearing Army shirt). These actors are all Community of Hope veterans in transition from homelessness. They are telling their stories. The sign 'All Threats Will be Teken Seriously' is what the VA actually displays in its offices. The second sign is our comic relief. See 30 minute YouTube video by Matthew Saylors (filmographer) of our first public performance of Veterans Theater (18 March 2015.
Professors David Boje of College of Business and Erika Gergerich of Social Work in College of Health and Social Services are bringing together veterans in transition from homelessness with social worker and business sustainability students to give the audience a look at the Veterans Administration (VA) from the inside out.
Social workers (nurses, doctors, etc.) have a heart-of-care and somehow strait-jacketed working in the VA by a bureaucratic mess. The veterans-themselves and the social workers bring the VA pattern of processing vets into view on the stage so that he audience can engage a disciplined inquiry into the organizational behavior and achieve an understanding of the pedagogy of the oppressed. David Boje of College of Business directs the Veterans' Theater. He is Equine-Assisted Growth And Learning Association (EAGALA) equine specialist also certified to work with veterans and military family members.
EAGALA (see our http://peaceaware.eagle) site for more info on our work with horses and veterans.
The Veterans' Theater audience enters a space of critical dialgouge of how the VA engages in universal standard-making practies while social workers attempt to use story-listening in a heart-of-care and not fall into the bureaucratic trap of processing 'cases' instead of 'people.' Here is an example:
Above, an NMSU Social Work student volunteers to take the role of a VA service provider, and reenact a scene, to see how the VA might use the resources it has to do its work with more humanity towards veterans. From left to Right: David (NMSU & Vietnam Veteran), Jen and Maxie (NMSU social work), volunteer social work student from audience, and Sykes a co-founder of Camp Hope and Vietnam Veteran). This approach to problem solving is called Forum Theater, and was created by Augusto Baol, and is based on Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It is a way for the the veterans and social workers to 'speak back to powerful' institutions such as the VA, and bring aobut problem solving, and bring the entire audience into the Situation.
Above 'Veterans Theater actors': BA (22 year MP who heads up 'Safety Team' at Camp Hope; veterans Ernst, Sykes, and John from Transitional Living unit of Community of Hope who are developing the plays about the meds-industry relations with the VA to show the audience how this looks from the inside out.
Above is our first live audience. Thank you for attending the 18 March event, now buy tickets for the April 30th full performance.
We are raising $3,000 to put on the full five act perofmrance. http://GoFundMe.com/mol1wc All money goes toward producing the plays, theater costs, set design, costumes, transportation, and getting our veterans' story onto the big stage. All proceeds go to Veteran's Theater costs and to pay for EAGALA sessions for our veterans and any family members. 'SUPPORT THE TROOPS' with more than words! Their smiles are thanks enough! Order a front row $25-seat at the first show, or $6 students, $12 adults. The show must go on!
Thank you from Veterans' Theater.
THE PROBLEM: The death of storytelling! The disappearance or 'death' of storytelling is to blame for the increase in veterans suicides (22 each and every day). Walter Benjamin (1936) in his calssic essay, The Storyteller, diagnosed the death of storytelling because people jsut don't sit around and practice their storytelling skills anymore. The disappearance of storytelling competencies in American enterprises is responsible for veterans not getting the heart-of-care they need and are eligble to receive from the Veterans Administration (VA). To date, 19,500 veterans died while waiting for care, caught up in strange rules, lsot paperwork, a process over-dependent on dispensing medications instead listening to the veterans themselves about their needs. The VA is perfectly designed to produce the death results it is getting: ineffective storytelling, no story-listening skills. Veterans, social workers, nurses, doctors of all type, and the nation would like to find solutions to the death of storytelling at the VA, and to the death of veterans who served the USA. How is it that social workers (psychologists, nurses, physicians, etc.) are trained by our finest universities in the land, yet are unable to understand the stories that veterans are telling? Could it be a crisis of story-listening. This is why we are putting on Veteran Theater events, so you the public can enter into the story listening and the storytelling, as we speak back to the most powerful institutions in the land: VA and pharmeceutical companies, and the American Psychological Association.
What are the storytelling competencies that have died in the USA since World War II? Walter Benjamin’s (1936) amazing essay, The Storyteller , is in my view, the most seminal piece on organizational storytelling ever written. Bejamin argues that ways of storytelling are dying, being replaced by trite linear-narrative, information processing instead of care, and bureaucratic forms of communication that making story-listening impossible. Storytelling for Benjamin is a craft, one that grew up in the pre-capitalist world of people sitting around telling and listening to stories while they did their sewing, weaving, or sea-faring crafts. Benjamin lamented that the face-to-face listening and story swapping in work groups was on the decline. Now with our society (me included) using iPhones, iPads, Tweets, Facebooking, YouTubing, and staring at so many computer screens, those face-to-face storytelling skills are more in decline, than ever before. Benjamin foretold that storytelling forms of high reflexive introspection, and critical communicative understanding would be increasingly dominated by the over-simplifying narratives of abstraction, destroying the richness and nuance our ‘living story’ experiences of Being, dumbing them down, in an increasing bureaupahology, no where, more prevelant than the VA. The VA social workers and veterans seeking help there, are both losing storytelling competencies with each new generation.
The ability of the veteran storyteller to weave and spin their experiences into communicative competence has been lost. The ability of the social worker, as story-listener, to engage what is told with any sense of moral reflexivity has long been lost.
At Veterans' Theater, we believe it takes the entire community to regrow the lost competencies of storytellers and story-listeners. Walter Benjamin (1936: 91) said these are skills best honed in a “rhythm of work” among craftspeople, in the “milieu of work-the rural, the maritime, and the urban… artisan form of communication.” This is why the focus of Veterans' Theater is on dramaturgy, on reenacting the scenes of encounter between veterans and social workers at the VA office, while the audience of America, can observe for themselves, the breakdown in storytelling, the death of storytelling, first hand.
Veterans can no longer exchange their experiences of trauma of war (PTSD, TBI), marital crisis, joblessness, that economic collapse sending 49,933 veterans into homelessness, including veterans of Vietnam, and the recent wars in Iraq, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.
We are resurecting lost storytelling competencies by putting on public performances by veterans and social workers where the live audience has opportunities to participate in the 'storytelling', to engage inreal time problems solving, to relaim the lost art of storytelling.
What are the lost competencies of storytelling?
"All great storytellers have in common the freedom with which they move up and down the rungs of their experience as on a ladder. A ladder extending downward to the interior of the earth and disappearing into the clouds is the image for a collective experience to which even the deepest shock of every individual experience, death, constitutes no impediment or barrier" (Walter Benjamin, 1936: 83).
It it impossible to move up and down the rungs of veterans' experiences, when the ladder is so bureaucratic, so riven with informaiton processing devices, and bureaucratic protocols, that the humanity of the storytelling itself, ceases to exist.
The storytelling practices between the veterans and the VA social workers, medical doctors, psychologists, and so on, has broken down. Veterans' Theatre creates a place of practice, a time to experiment with old school ways of storytelling, riach in performative competencies. This is a dramaturgical encounter between the veterans and the social work profession, the pharmeceutical industry of over-medication, the profession of psychology that has become diagnosis-by-numbers (akin to paint-by-numbers), and all professions everywhere that engage in bureaucratic-communication with veterans doing their storytelling, having untold stories in organizations (Izak, Hitchin, & Anderson, 2015).
There is an even deeper and more troublesome root cause: The death of storytelling is accmpanied by a a society turning its bakc on death itself.
The Death of Storytelling Indictments:
- We do formally charge that the death of storytelling is a serious crime. The death of storytelling is an indictment for societal conspiracy, a society trying to turn its back on the death of veterans, on death itself!
- The dramaturgy we observe at the VA is a situation, a storytelling system that is so bad, it deserves to be condemned. Yet, there is somthing eles that is troubling, a society that cannot stare death in the face.
- How can the USA sit by and watch the death of storytelling when it does lead to so many other kinds of death of veterans? 22 veteran suicides a day, 8030 a year, 56,210 every 7 years --> more than death by combat --> more veteran suicides than happened in WWI or WWII. Surely the nation is watching death in video games, yet unable to face the death of its soldiers, its veterans after deployment.
These are indictments, not of the VA, but of an entire society, that is complicit in the death of storytelling! The death of storytelling coincides with the way the face of death itself has changed.
"Death is the sanction of everything that the storyteller can tell" (Benjamin, 1936, online).
"Dying was once a public process in the life of the individual and a most exemplary one; think of the medieval pictures in which the deathbed has turned into a throne toward which the people press through the wide-open doors of the death house. In the course of modern times dying has been pushed further and further out of the perceptual world of the living" (Benjamin, 1936, online).
Veterans who escape dying in the theaters of combat return home, in these modern times, ony to have their dying pushed out of view of the world of the living society. Today veterans are stowed away in VA waiting lists, or in VA hospitals, so that the rest of society is never touched by death. Yet we all know of veterans or know of a friend of a veteran, who died waiting for care.
"The idea of eternity has ever had its strongest source in death. If this idea declines, so we reason, the face of death must have changed. It turns out that this change is identical with the one that has diminished the communicability of experience to the same extent as the art of storytelling has declined" (Benjamin, 1936, online).
The purpose of Veterans' Theater is to bring the lost arts of storytelling back to life. We practice increased communicability of veterans' and the VA social workers' experiences. We do our dramaturgy to restore to life storytelling practices that bring a new vigor to not only storytelling at the VA, but resuscitate storytelling in the USA. We are here to relaunch storytelling! Storytelling has collapsed and has yet to be resurrected. In this way dead storytelling is resurrected. In a land where veterans can no longer tell a tale of trauma properly, we are reclaiming lost storytelling competencies, putting them in the Mirror Stage, so USA can see its own storytelling practices, in the mirror.
Benjamin, Walter. 1936/1955/1968. The Storyteller: Reflections on the works of Nikolai Leskov, Pp. 883-110. In Illuminations, Edited with introduction by Hannah Arendt. Translated by Harry Zohn. NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1936/1955 in German, 1968 in English. See searchable PDF
DOING BUSINESS WITH THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION
I am often asked why is someone from the College of Business doing work with veterans? I want to understand how 22 veteran suicides a day is related to doing business with the VA.
According to the VA: The care needed for 25.6 million living veterans is unsustainable given "the federal budget climate” (p. 4, http://www.va.gov/healthpolicyplanning/vision2020.pdf).
Here are the Facts: About 4 million of the 25.6 total number of living veterans receive care in any given year. This means that VA does not have the budget for facilities, personnel, technology, meds, etc. to actually do the job. The USA strategy therefore has been to restrict and allocate care by giving priority access to veterans with service-connected disabilities. This means that most veterans, committing suicide (22 a day) are not receiving any VA care.
In Las Cruces, for example, 80% of the veterans at Community of Hope do not seek or receive VA benefits. Rather, they exist on medicaid, medicare, or private care. Of 22 suicides a day, 21 of the 22 have no care at all.
The VA operates 162 VA hospitals nationwide. 57 VA regional offices provide benefits to veterans. VA has medical care budget of more than $28 billion, and employs more than 180,000 health care professionals in 162 hospitals, more than 850 community and facility-based clinics, 137 nursing homes, 43 domiciliaries, 206 readjustment counseling centers, and various other facilities throughout the country.
Of the 25.6 million living veterans, most (75 percent) served during a war or an official period of hostility. Of these, Over 6.2 million enrolled veterans look to VHA for health care services and more than 4.3 million veterans received care in FY 2002.
"VA has been unable to provide all enrolled veterans with timely access to health care services because of the tremendous growth in the number of veterans seeking VA health care” (p. 4).
source of above statistics: http://www.va.gov/healthpolicyplanning/vision2020.pdf
The VA does a lot of business with pharmaceutical companies.
In the April 30th 2015 VETERANS' THEATER production the veterans and social workers, in the production, will be taking a critical look at the role of pharmaceutical companies.
"Eight pharmaceutical companies, including the nation's three largest, doled out more than $220 million last year to promotional speakers for their products, according to a ProPublica analysis of company data.
For the first time, all these companies have reported a full year of payments, allowing for head-to-head comparisons of how much they spent on physicians to help push their pills. Some appear to be paring back." (source)
This is big business. For example, Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) announced financial results for the fourth quarter and full year of 2013.
"Total revenue in the U.S. increased 5 percent to $12.890 billion due to higher prices, partially offset by volume declines for Cymbalta and Zyprexa® due to the loss of patent exclusivity. “ … "Zyprexa sales outside the U.S. were $1.071 billion, a 20 percent decrease driven by the unfavorable impact of foreign exchange rates, lower volume in markets outside of Japan, and lower prices”
However, there is another side to the Zyprexa story, it may not be safe:
"Two patients have died unexpectedly after their Zyprexa Relprevv injections, and the FDA is now investigating. The agency says the patients died three to four days after receiving "an appropriate dose," and both had "very high" blood levels of olanzapine, the long-acting Zyprexa product's active ingredient” Source: http://www.fiercepharma.com/story/fda-probes-long-acting-zyprexa-safety-after-2-patients-die/2013-06-18… Made by Eli Lilly ($LLY), Zyprexa Relprevv is a follow-up to the company's blockbuster antipsychotic Zyprexa. The long-acting injectable version isn't a big seller for the company; Lilly doesn't even itemize its sales, just reports the total Zyprexa franchise revenue, which amounted to $1.3 billion last year. The Relprevv version is, however, still on patent, so it's selling at brand prices without generic competition. Its key patent expires in 2018.”….
"Zyprexa itself has come under plenty of FDA scrutiny. After years of reports of weight gain in Zyprexa patients, the FDA investigated, and the drug now carries a label warning of the risk of weight gain and metabolic problems. Lilly faced thousands of lawsuits from Zyprexa patients claiming the drug caused them to develop diabetes; the company wrapped up most of them in a $1.2 billion settlement. The company also paid $1.42 billion to resolve a Justice Department investigation into its Zyprexa marketing practices" source: http://www.fiercepharma.com/story/fda-probes-long-acting-zyprexa-safety-after-2-patients-die/2013-06-18
"Among the allegations: That Lilly pushed Zyprexa for children and for elderly dementia patients, both off-label uses. That it made particular efforts to push Zyprexa in long-term care facilities and nursing homes. And that Lilly aimed to make Zyprexa a primary care drug, despite the fact that it was only approved to treat two disorders--schizophrenia and bipolar disorder--typically not handled by primary-care doctors.” source: http://www.fiercepharma.com/special-reports/top-10-pharma-settlements/eli-lilly-zyprexa
“The Veterans Administration’s inability to pay benefits to veterans before they die is increasingly common” Source
“Long wait times are contributing to tens of thousands of veterans being approaved … after its too late” Source or Source
7.7 Million Americans have PTSD. 31% Vietnam Vets have PTSD.. (source).
That’s the question the family and friends of Air Force Reserve Capt. Jamie Brunette are struggling to answer.
"At 30, Brunette seemingly had it all. A vivacious and attractive athlete and scholar, she had been lauded by the Air Force for her work in Afghanistan, was a partner in a fitness center about to open in Largo and was known by her family and friends as being the strong one always ready to help others.
But for some reason, Brunette, who left active duty after 11 years last June and joined the Air Force Reserve, couldn’t help herself.
On Feb. 9, Tampa police found her slumped over in the back of her locked Chrysler 200 sedan outside a Harbour Island cafe near her apartment." More
Everyone wants to know, why are there so many homeless veterans (1 in 4 homeless are veterans)? Why are so many veterans homeless in the USA (49,933)? Why are 22 veterans a day committing suicide?
Figure 1: PeaceAware.com Veterans' Theater Can Stop this Dowward Cycle--> Learn the Facts, Become Aware of the Peace Effects after the Veterans Return from Deployment; Support Veterans' Theatre --> Veterans creating their own entrepreneurial adventure.
There are many reasons why people do not go to the VA
More see http://peaceaware.com/eagle
I am proposing a program: Building Change through storytelling for Veterans Transitioning form Homelessness in Peace Time. We are building sustainability in the Veterans’ Theatre business venture. For example, as an amateur blacksmith, I am recycling rebar into ten pegs for Camp Hope, so the tents don’t blow away. I am also making a Kiln to melt beer and soda aluminum cans so they can be sand-cast into parts of life-size veteran-Marionettes that can be used in our stage productions of Veterans Theater
You can help by recycling rebar or aluminum, or donating directly at http://GoFundMe.com/mol1wc
Above is Matt Mercer, whohelped found Camp Hope in 2011 after several years of living homeless in Las Cruces. Today, Mercer works for the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, which runs the camp. (Source: Andres Leighton/For the Albuquerque Journal)
It started with sandtray work with homeless veterans, move along to EAGLE (equine-assisted-growth-and-learning-events) with our student veterans and families, now we are taking our own Forum Theatre on-the-road. Forum Theatre is Augusto Boal's way of getting the actors on the stage to interact with the audience spectators, until the spectators become actors, or as he calls them 'spect-actors'. Our innovation is to make this part of Lacan's Mirror Stage. Veterans recognize themselves in the strange reflected images of the Mirror Stage.
Carlos Ramsdell Macías of
The Sun & The Moon
February 17, 2015
Carlos' Materials List to construct a Marionette Theatre Set and (10) Hand-Held Puppets. We raise $450 to fund Carlos' marionettes and stage set so he could purchase the following:
We plan to do several fund raisers:
Las Cruces 901 East University Ave, Suite B Las Cruces, NM 88001
We appread at CeCe's on 18 March 2015 at 7PM
|Need to set the date|
|26th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March on 22 March 2015!||Registration is $110 per person; $500 for a team. SEEKING SPONSOR for 4 Vets to go||Seeking Waiver for fee so that 5 veterans from Community of Hope may enter the event|
|Bruce Springstein Concert at Las Cruces New Mexico||We are $200,000 short of what Bruce's handlers want to come to Las Cruces||The NMSU activities people have been talking to Springstein, and they are getting closer to agreeing on terms|
Answer 1: Giant Size:How about a Veteran Marionette that is 50 Feet High, wearing a Screaming Eagle patch
“All this may be no more than a kind of game. But it is in the course of some such story that one can isolate functions like those that I wished to reproduce here on the blackboard. In order to conjugate the schema of the net with those I have made in response to a psychologizing theory of the psychoanalytic personality, you have only to turn the obturator I referred to earlier into a camera shutter, except that it would be a mirror. It is in this little mirror, which shuts out what is on the other side, that the subject sees emerge the game by means of which he may — according to the illusion of what is obtained in the experiment of the inverted bunch of flowers, that is to say, a real image —— accommodate his own image around what appears, the petit a.. It is the sum of these accommodations of images that the subject must find the opportunity for an essential integration” (Lacan, Book X, p. 159).
NOV 28 1962
From the cosmos to the unheimliche; The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book X: Anxiety (ed. Jacques-Alain Miller), N.Y.: Polity, 2014
THE SPECULAR AND THE SIGNIFIER
FROM THE WORLD TO THE WORLD'S STAGE
Sandtrays, horse areans, and the Mirror Stage our theatre group performs, its all kind of stroytelling game. Each of these reproduces a stage, and you the audience take a picture of it, in the blink of an eye, except that too would be a little mirror that shuts out what is the Other, in a game of many images of Veterans held out of view.