"It seemed that everyone else was making statements on the Vietnam War except for us artist-veterans. Most other reflections have been idealogical. We hope to touch emotions through personal experiences."
Tom Bird started the Veterans Ensemble Theatre Company a little over a year ago with this in mind.
Last night his aims were achieved as the company presented "Point of Origin" for an invited audience of 150 in the Old Vat Room of Arena Stage.
The men in the cast are all veterans of the Vietnam War. They also are professionals of stage and film experience. The women are their peers, who shared the war years with young men even if they were not in the service.
Last night's program included excerpts from two plays about Vietnam war veterans. But there were other, unrelated sections, and some of the most powerful moments came in the staging of excerpts from letters written by or to the members of the company.
Joan McCarthy, now a caseworker for the Vietnam Veterans of America, once again became the high-school girl of 10 years ago as she wrote to her brother overseas and then read the telegram reporting his death. Another actress read a letter from her brother saying he didn't want to get close to any of his fellow soliders because "I can't afford to lose any more friends."
Bird directed the two play excerpts from Thomas Cole's "Medal of Honor Rag," which was performed at Folger, and "The Burial of Esposito" by Ronald Ribman. Hubert Edwards and Tim Elliot gave moving performances as the doctor and the veteran of the "Medal of Honor Rag."
At the end of the performance, playwright David Berry, whose "G.R. Point" played on Broadway, told the audience that Vietnam veterans like himself have "learned in the deep silence of our introspection." Now, he said, they want no more waste, they know courage and sacrifice must not disappear from the lexicon of American virtues, and they want to work for "good news."
The ensemble, encouraged by a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, is planning a six-play season in New York, including Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" under special permission from the playwright.