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Oral History Project to Collect Stories of Veterans

Judith Royer, C.S.J., professor of theatre, knows all about the transformative power of storytelling. For her sabbatical project last semester, she worked on an oral history project that told the stories of five religious sisters in her community who are from different generations. The project was such a success that Royer's new project will tell the stories of six California veterans from three generations.

"The process of telling a story helps a person own their history," Royer said. "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." 

The project, "Soldier's Stories: Los Angeles Veterans  Bridging the War Generation Gap," will pair six veterans with professional writers who will help the veterans communicate their experience through the means of dramatic narratives. The narratives will then be professionally produced and performed in fall '09 in several locations in  Los Angeles. The veterans will be selected from a pool drawn from Los Angeles-based veterans including the resident and outreach populations of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, and will be representative of 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. 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," Royer said.

"Soldiers' Stories" is funded by a grant from the California Council for the Humanities , California Stories and a matching grant from Loyola Marymount University. The project will include contributions from several LMU faculty members, including Lawrence Tritle, professor of history, Ron Barrett, professor of psychology, Catharine Christof, adjunct faculty in theatre arts, and Johnny Garofalo, production manager/technical director for the Theatre Arts and Dance departments. LMU students will work on the project as well.

"'Soldiers' Stories' is an expensive project because of the important element, the public performances and production costs related to these. We couldn't have done a project like this without the generous funding we have received," Royer said.