Brandon Frisk contributed to this story:
MARQUETTE, Mich.—The experience of an American journalist embedded with troops in Iraq and the lingering trauma he must confront after he returns to the States are explored in “Fallujah,” the upcoming play at Northern Michigan University’s Forest Roberts Theatre. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, through Saturday, Feb. 23, with a 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday.
“Fallujah” will be directed by Ansley Valentine. According to the synopsis, “The journalist befriends the Marines he is working with and is immediately captivated by their stories of combat and home life. After tragedy strikes, the journalist is forced to return home, but the echoes of his time in Iraq reverberate too strongly for him to bear as he struggles to reconcile his experiences and to make a difference in a war that he doesn't fully know, but cannot truly leave.”
Evan Sanderson wrote the play—his first—for his thesis at Boston University’s School of Theatre. He was impacted by a magazine story that indicated the death toll from suicides related to inadequate mental care for soldiers may exceed the combat death toll in Iraq.
“This little piece of information struck me like lightning,” wrote Sanderson on his website. “It was unfair on a level I couldn’t countenance. I wanted to drop out of school, join the Marines, do something. After getting advice from a wise source that I would make a terrible soldier, I decided to stick with what I’m good at: telling stories.”
The script was workshopped and received several performances through the American College Theatre Festival. It eventually received the honor of a production at the Kennedy Center in 2011 and won that year’s National Playwriting Award.
NMU alumnus Brenton Fitzpatrick plays the part of the squad’s leader. He and other cast members worked on their physical training to create the most realistic portrayal for audiences.
“My biggest issue is constantly asking myself, ‘Did I push myself hard enough?’” Fitzpatrick said. “The answer is undoubtedly no, simply because I have just a vague idea of what it takes to be a Marine and I know that I can't subject myself to the same training scenarios and experiences that they undergo. None of us can. “[The play is] not about the war. It’s about the soldiers, about the guys who were there and what they experienced and the issues they faced upon their arrival home.”
Tickets are available at all NMU EZ Ticket outlets. They are $5 for NMU students, $10 for students 18 and under, $15 for the general public and $10 each for groups of eight or more.