“Support Our Troops,” a common saying in our day and age of wars and rumors of wars; but not something that we, as a country, are unfamiliar with. America has endured multiple battles around the world as well as on its own soil since our founding as a country. We have lost far too many good men and women to battles that too often we, or the soldiers themselves, did not understand the purpose of fighting. Mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, brothers and sisters, all have lost loved ones that they hold most dear and all for the goal of promoting and maintaining “freedom and the American ideal”.
At the end of the Vietnam Conflict (truly the war that changed the face of war as we know it) thousands of soldiers came home to ridicule, sarcasm, disgust, anger, and outright hatred from a country that had been sold a bill of theories. Night after night we sat and watched as the images of wounded and dead soldiers appeared on the nightly news, until we were either disgusted to no end or literally numb to the visions of it. One result of which was that our soldiers returned to a country that did not respect or honor them and they had to either find a way to fit back into society or evaporate from it. In what other war were soldiers advised to change clothes on the plane before landing back in the US in order not to be spit upon? Though many were able to make the hard adjustment back into modern society, many others became street people or wound up in our prisons, graveyards or worse – the forgotten homeless. Thousands were placed in mental institutions because of something we now have a name for, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or P.T.S.D. Sadly, none of our fighting force of the Vietnam Era have received the honor and understanding that they are still due.
“People don’t learn from their mistakes, we make the same ones time and again in order to eventually learn, but still don’t,” stated actor Dig Wayne, a truly phenomenal performer who just finished a successful eight week run in “I’m Not Here Anymore.” This was a new production by W. Colin McKay produced by The Actor Hood and Barbara Scolaro, and performed at the Pan Andreas Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. This production is a passionate plea for the viewer to “Support” our troops even after they come back from battle, and calls the viewer to deal with the realities of PTSD for our Iraqi Freedom veterans.
The cast, led by Dayton Knoll, forces the audience to walk a few days in the life of one soldier who is suffering. He sees things, hears sounds, fights unseen foes, and re-lives the horrors of his experiences while in Iraq throughout the production. Only four of the cast’s six members are real in the mind of Josh (played by Knoll) where the others are memories haunting his daily existence. “It is my great hope that our audience will understand what is asked of our soldiers during and after battles. The cost is too great to take complacently,” stated Knoll.
The greatest challenge for the audience, beyond the massive amount of vulgar (though somewhat expected) language, is the requirement that they actually engage their emotions. The viewer must look at what is going on with our soldiers involved in war regardless of where they are serving in the world and regardless of our personal political views. Author McKay attempts to lift the emotional shock with comedy but the depth of the purpose of his work is far greater than what can be experienced in just a two-hour production on stage, not to mention the questions that the viewer winds up asking himself regarding the rather direct accusations McKay makes about the secrets of war, which the general public is usually not made aware.
The Pan Andreas Theatre is a small ‘black-box’ theater seating approximately 100 people but more than met the needs of this powerful production. Its restrooms are among the smallest I have yet to encounter, and parking is either a $3.00 service charge in a tiny little lot behind a restaurant or street parking. The only area for congregating is outside and the theater can be hard to locate at 5125 Melrose Ave (just west of Western Ave.) in Los Angeles, CA; however, it offers an very quaint and comfortable feel of community that is often overlooked in larger facilities.
Directed by Al Bonadies, “I’m Not Here Anymore” closed on the night that I was available to view this production. I would very much like to have seen this production earlier in its run so that I might encourage my readers to attend for an entertaining and challenging experience. As this is not the case, what I can tell you is to be on the lookout for the two main actors of this production – supporting actor Dig Wayne, often seen on various television productions and who offered an amazingly powerful and convincing Psychologist working at the Veteran’s Administration and Dayton Knoll, portraying lead Josh whose passion, determination, conviction, and power as a performer all grab the attention of the viewer and maintain it throughout the show. Both of these men are going to be seen in many other productions that I am certain will be better because of their involvement.
Though “I’m Not Here Anymore” has closed its run at the Pan Andreas, the true theater attendee should be on the lookout for other programs offered by and/or produced by The Actor Hood, by logging onto their website at ActorHood.com. The production’s basic statement is that ‘Some Things Cannot Be Forgiven.” Though not all individuals will agree with a statement this judgmental, the production does force the viewer to question with what, when, where, and how we should judge those who serve to protect the unappreciated freedoms that we as a people so liberally enjoy.