MILWAUKEE -- Therapy through theater - local veterans are using the work of William Shakespeare as treatment, and it appears to be a very effective form of recovery.
The non-profit program is called Feast of Crispian. TODAY'S TMJ4 caught up with the local veterans turned actors at a rehearsal at UW-M Tuesday night. They’re getting ready for big public performances later this week, but it’s their own life stories of survival, that are the most compelling.
They’re not professional actors. They are men and women who’ve seen and experienced things in real life that most of us can’t imagine.
Raymond Dan Hubbard was critically injured in Iraq 10 years ago, while serving in the Wisconsin National Guard.
“One of the primary issues that I had after surviving, was the opioid dependency that accumulated over the years from trying to deal with the pain,” Hubbard says.
When the pills got taken away, Hubbard turned to heroin. While in rehab at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, he heard about the Feast of Crispian.
“It was the door that I needed unlocked,” he says. “By emoting on stage in character, and going out into a public space as yourself and feeling that emotion again, you’re better able to control what you’re feeling and recognize it.”
Carissa DiPietro stumbled onto Feast of Crispian the same way, after suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. Carissa was raped by her army recruiter. Years later, her young daughter was tragically killed.
“It came to the point a couple of years ago where I wasn't even leaving my house or my bed,” she describes. "I made a New Year's resolution that I had to do something.”
That something turned out to be acting - an unlikely form of recovery. Learning Shakespeare, and performing it on stage with other veterans, helps Carissa overcome shyness, connect emotionally, and dig deeper into her own feelings.
“I don't get judged in this room ever,” she says. “We have become a family. I can say these words - someone else’s words - and I can do these scenes, and I can put everything I’ve got into it. Just release it. Then, I can go to my counselor that same week and talk about what came up for me."
The Feast of Crispian program is made possible entirely through donations. If you’d like learn more about the organization or make a donation, you can visit: www.feastofcrispian.org
Their free public performance titled “And Comes Safe Home,” will be performed at the Mainstage Theater at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts (2400 Kenwood Blvd.) this Thursday September 29th, Friday September 30th, & Saturday October 1st at 7pm. And on Sunday October 2nd at 2pm. There will also be a veteran’s only preview on Wednesday September 28th at 7pm.