Tell Me Something Good: “War Words” comes to Syracuse

Tell Me Something Good

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — An actor stands center stage.  “Ya, that was the bravest moment of my life.  but it was also the worst.”

‘War Words’ tells the true stories of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, knitted together by playwright Michelle Kholos Brooks.  Using her background as a public radio journalist, she interviewed vets and their families to get a better understanding of their experiences and share it with the rest of us. 

“I would say all of them said to me, ‘You know, nobody really cares.  Nobody really cares about our experience or about our story,’ says Kholos Brooks.  “And the fact that I heard that again and again and again, that that was a constant, that was heartbreaking.”

The play has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  Six cities will present staged readings of the work in time for Veterans Day.  Syracuse Stage will present one Tuesday night (November 9) at the new National Veterans Resource Center on the Syracuse University campus.

Syracuse Stage artistic director Robert Hupp directs the reading.. the first performance in the center’s new Tan Auditorium.

“We want to get out of Washington and we want to approach a larger audience of people with these stories,” says Steven Grundman, an executive producer of the production.  “And to use ‘story’ as a way to engage them as opposed to analysis or the typical structure and parlance of Washington talk.”

Grundman is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a not-for-profit, nonpartisan think tank.  Their goal is to bring understanding to the American public.

One of the vets who told their story is Matt Zeller, an SU grad who served in Afghanistan.  He owes his life to his Afghan interpreter, Janis Shenwari, who shot two Taliban fighters before they could kill Zeller.  They’ll see ‘War Words’ for the very first time, together, this week in New York City.  Zeller is the son of two opera singers, and says the Arts can tell a story in a way that connects with people like nothing else.

“There’s such a profound difference when you’re trying to communicate a message to someone if you can get them to empathize and feel it with you, as opposed to just trying to get them to understand it,” says Zeller.

Zeller has become one of the leading voices urging the American government to protect Afghans who supported US troops and get them away from the threat of Taliban fighters.  He and Janis have founded a non-profit charity, No One Left Behind, to support Special Immigrant Visa applicants. 

Admission to the staged reading of ‘War Words’ is free, but you need a ticket.  You can get them through the Syracuse Stage website at SyracuseStage.org or through the box office at 315-443-3275.

Audience members will have to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test, and masks will be mandatory.

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