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Oral History Project Shares the Lives of Soldiers

On the heels of Fourth of July celebrations, Loyola Marymount University will offer the community a chance to connect with soldiers’ experiences. “On the Front Line: Three Generations of Soldiers' Voices” is a dramatic narrative of California veterans who served from World War II through Iraq. Conversations were collected and merged into a play based on six California veterans from three generations.

The performance calls attention to issues of self-identity, equal rights and long-lasting emotional and mental affects of war through the experiences of soldiers’ lives on the battlefield, the affect at home and the differences between generations. After each performance, the audience can participate in discussions with humanities experts, actors, writers and the veterans whose stories have been told.

“The process of telling a story helps a person own their history,” said Judith Royer, C.S.J., professor of theater. “When an artist takes someone's history and dramatizes it, it's like taking the demon of your memories and transforming it into something aesthetically beautiful.”

In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, California has the highest statistical casualties of any state with more than 3,000 wounded and 500 fatalities. Veterans were selected from resident and outreach populations of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, and represent World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We must do all we can to share and preserve the stories of our California veterans from the several generations of war in our times,” Royer said. “Especially for our younger veterans, the storytelling process becomes part of their reintegration into life at home by providing them the opportunity to relate their experience to each other and other generations of veterans as well as civilians.”

“On the Front Line“ is funded by a California Council for the Humanities’  California Stories grant and a matching grant from Loyola Marymount University. The project includes contributions from LMU faculty members, including Lawrence Tritle, professor of history, Ron Barrett, professor of psychology, Linda Bannister, professor of English, Catharine Christof, adjunct faculty in theater arts, and Johnny Garofalo, production manager/technical director for the Theatre Arts and Dance departments. LMU students will work on the project as well.

“‘On the Front Line’ is an expensive project because of the important elements –  the public performances and the production costs related to these. We couldn't have done a project like this without the generous funding we have received,” Royer said.  

The opening of “On the Front Line” will be July 11, 2009 at 2 p.m. at the USVAA Theater in Culver City, Calif. Subsequent performances will be held at the LMU campus on Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m., and at The Actors’ Gang Theater in Culver City on Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. Admission is free.

For more information and reservations, please call 310-670-0362 or email jroyer@earthlink.net