Arts & Culture

Staging Transition From Soldier to 'civilian' Takes UK Play to NYC


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 3, 2011) − The transition from the battlefield to life back home is a long and, at times, bumpy road for our war veterans. The compelling documentary drama "civilian," based on riveting oral history interviews of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, carefully examines the transition from soldier to civilian for a group of veterans adjusting to college life at the University of Kentucky. The play, by noted playwright Herman Daniel Farrell III, will premiere at the 15th New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) August 12-28, 2011. To raise funds for the trip, a preview performance of "civilian" will be presented 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8, at Guignol Theatre. Audience members are asked to donate what they can for the UK performance.

Farrell, co-writer of the Peabody Award winning HBO Film "Boycott" that featured Jeffrey Wright as Martin Luther King Jr. returns to the Fringe for the third time with this docudrama. Farrell’s play about George W. Bush, "ROME," premiered at the 2004 FringeNYC and his play "Portrait of a President" concerning Bill Clinton’s legacy won an Excellence in Playwriting Award at the 2002 FringeNYC.

In January 2010, Doug Boyd, director of the UK Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, working with veteran and alumnus Tyler Gayheart and Tony Dotson, director of the Veterans Resource Center, launched the oral history project "From Combat to Kentucky" in order to chronicle the stories of student veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Subsequently, Farrell, an assistant professor of playwriting at UK, and students in his "Staging History" course at the UK Department of Theatre devised a verbatim drama drawn from the oral history transcripts. The play, "Bringing It Home: Voices of Student Veterans," premiered in April 2010 in the Buell Armory on the UK campus.

This new play "civilian" incorporates additional interviews by student veterans and dares to address a current brewing problem in America. "Recently, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed his concern that there is a growing divide between those who have served in the armed forces and the civilian populace,” says Farrell. “This play closely examines the current fraught relationship between civilians and veterans while also conveying the heart-wrenching stories of men and women who served in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned home and have struggled to make the transition back to civilian life.”

Through the collaboration, the three university programs hoped to provide some insight with regard to a veteran's experience. "I am excited to be a part of something so powerful," says Dotson. "This is a unique opportunity for the average American to get a look at war from the perspective of the warrior and not CNN. If this doesn’t make you want to thank a veteran for their service, nothing will."

Boyd is happy to see the Nunn Center's work shared not only on the center's website, but on a stage as well. "So many different ground level descriptions are coming out of the interviews of shortcomings and triumphs in these experiences," says the oral historian. "I think the more those can be expressed and articulated to the general public, the better, because that is how we grow and learn as a society."

The documentary drama "civilian" will be presented to New York audiences five times as part of FringeNYC at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14; 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17; 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20; 9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23; and 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28. All performances will be staged at the Bleecker Street Theater, located at 45 Bleecker St.

New York International Fringe Festival is the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues. FringeNYC is a production of The Present Theatre Company, Inc.

To see interviews with some of the UK staff, faculty and students behind "civilian," click play on the video below: 


Read the transcript for this video here:

UK Department of Theatre at the UK College of Fine Arts is grounded in the belief that theater is a fundamental cultural necessity that enriches all who participate in it. The department is oriented toward a multicultural world view, interdisciplinary collaborations and civic responsibility through engagement and service-learning. Theatre courses at UK emphasize the truly inclusive nature of the art form, which encompasses performance, literature, design, history, artistic community and intellectual rigor. In addition to the Department of Theatre, the UK College of Fine Arts is home to UK's Arts Administration Program, Department of Art, School of Music and Singletary Center for the Arts.

The UK Veterans Resource Center was established in June 2009 to assist the growing number of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. The focus of the center is to coordinate and make available all of the necessary resources to ensure a smooth transition and successful academic career for the veterans and their families.

UK Libraries’ Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History is internationally recognized for its outstanding collection of nearly 8,000 oral history interviews. Among these historical interviews, the center has a collection of nearly 3,500 hours of interviews with veterans of World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, (859) 257-8716 or