Arena Stage’s ‘Healing Wars’: A (Literal) Moving Depiction of War’s Impact

It’s about healing in wartime, the nature of damage that continues when battles are over, and the question of how individuals and societies absorb the pain and impact of war.  And somehow this becomes remarkably artistic and even… entertaining.healing4

Currently on view for a limited engagement at Arena Stage, the world-premiere production of “Healing Wars,” a theatrical dance piece featuring contemporary dance by MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Liz Lerman.  A company of performers in multiple roles — you’ll immediately recognize film actor Bill Pullman as well as his wife Tamara Hurwitz Pullman and be delighted by Marjani Forte, George Hirsch, Ted Johnson, Alli Ross, Samantha Speis, Keith A. Thompson, and combat veteran Paul Hurley.

It all begins as audiences enter the theater (up to 25 minutes before showtime) to meander through a backstage exhibit experience before healing3choosing general admission seating.

The “show” is then a combination of dance, theatre and music that is sometimes fascinating, sometimes haunting, and always brings the audience back to the very real immediate aftermath of war.  Soldiers, nurses, surgeons — and even spirits — migrate between the American Civil War and conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“After pursuing questions about women and their activities in [the Civil War], I found myself investigating warfare’s relationship to innovation in medicine and the role of the healers themselves in conflict,” shared Lerman.  “At an intimate scale, this work is about bodies: what they bear, what they cannot bear, how we hide them and honor them when they die, how we patch them up while they live.”healing2

Healing Wars is part of The National Civil War Project, a multi-city, multi-year collaboration between four universities and five performing arts organizations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, and has been developed through major commissioning support from The George Washington University and various creative residencies.

*Images credit Teresa Wood