Cape Fear Regional Theater in Fayetteville and the Hidden Voices project are in the process of collecting stories from military spouses about finding courage in the challenges they face during and after deployment. The organizations hope to turn these stories into staged readings to help connect the military families with the greater community. Mikel Peterson has more.
Dora Bullock lives in New Bern and remembers the struggles vividly she faced during her husband’s deployment back in 2010.
“ He left about a week and half before I give birth to our daughter so, that was kinda tough you know not having him there during her first full six months of life. He was there through Skype online he was able to see everything take place that way but it still wasn’t the same, it made things a lot harder.”
Its stories like this that Cape Fear Regional Theatre and Hidden Voices are collecting. Tom Quaintance moved to Fayetteville three years ago when his wife started taking mommy and me classes with mostly military spouses. He says she would come home telling him the incredible stories she’d heard. That’s when the light bulb went off for Quaintance, the Artistic Director of the Cape Fear Regional Theatre.
“The programming was not reflective enough of where we are, you know it’s a town that is largely thriving because of Bragg and 82nd. So, were been looking for a project that we thought would be not only appealing to the military community but reflective of what their lives are.”
Over a year and half ago, Quaintance attended a conference and happened to hear about the non-profit project Hidden Voices. It’s Founder and Director Lynden Harris says the mission is to help military spouses share their stories. It’s often a cathartic exercise, beneficial for the spouse and for those hearing of their hardships.
“we work with communities to help them share they stories and we do that through performances, through new kinds of media, through touring exhibits and through art."
Quaintance and the Assistant director of Hidden Voices collaborated about how they could work together to collect stories of military spouses in eastern North Carolina.
“So, we wrote a grant to theatre communications group they were doing a program called Audience Revolution about changing the way you do outreach to different parts of the community. So we wrote a grant outlining that we wanted to do outreach by making this important part on our community part of the art making."
The workshops were attended by people like Nikki Hart.
“So, the car breaks down so now you have to put on a mechanic cap and you got to figure out how to fix the car or how to get it fix and then the next day one of the kids are sick well now you put on the doctor hat, things that it may seem like everybody deals with that and it happens to everybody, but when your spouse is deploy and you share those responsibility, especially emotional support and it’s not there 9 months to a year it takes a toll on you."
In order to facilitate the workshops and staged project, the Doris Duke grant was approved in January. Soon after, workshops were set up for Veterans spouses and new military spouses. The conversations happened over coffee and pastries, while Hidden Voices helpers employed unique methods to get the participants to open up about their experiences. Quaintance says the goal is for deep meaningful conservation on what life is like for them.
"They start with a bunch of questions that get to the root of what the best way that we can help? What are the things that people who are not in your situations need to know?"
The workshops have also spawned art projects. One installation depicts military life in the 1950’s.
“Really different lifestyle that was expected of military spouses from when they had to serve tea, they had to dress a certain way, they were given a handbook, they weren’t allow to have jobs. Boxes will be on display with the performances.”
The workshops have been going on since early this year and this mouth they’re hosting a workshop with a town- hall style meeting at Cape Fear Regional Theatre in Fayetteville. Quaintance says the theatre will accept personal stories through the end of August. So far they’ve organizations have collected over 100 stories.
“We been getting letters, we had people come in and put stories on video, we been taking e-mails.”
They also take submissions by phone. Both organizations involved hope to have a completed theatre project by May of 2015. For more information on this or to submit your story, go to cfrt.org/ we’ve provided a link for you at publicradioeast.org. I’m Mikel Peterson
For more information on the theater project, go to http://www.cfrt.org/voices-from-the-homefront/