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Event Calendar

Healing Wars

JUN 6 – JUN 29, 2014

Created and directed by
Liz Lerman

Featuring Bill Pullman

in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle

World Premiere Dance Event

A pioneer in the world of contemporary dance, Liz Lerman’s newest theatrical dance piece explores the experiences of the healers tasked with treating the physical and psychic wounds of battle. Joined by Bill Pullman (Independence Day), an ensemble of dancers represent medics and soldiers from the Civil War to today. Called “the source of an epochal revolution in the scope and purposes of dance art” (Washington Post), Lerman presents her singular aesthetic to audiences in this exciting world premiere about how we experience and recover from war.

Healing Wars is a piece I've been working on since 2011 and I'm so happy to have it premiere here at Arena Stage. The project grew out of a long-held interest in the American Civil War and was further sparked by a series of investigations that I was involved in about what happened to women during that war and in our contemporary wars. Through media, text, and movement we're exploring the question of what happens to healers when they place themselves in the middle of so much conflict. As a country I think we're still trying to absorb the damages of our Civil War, and I wonder: who is absorbing the damages of today's wars, and how?

— Liz Lerman (photo by Mike Ciesielski)

A Note from Healing Wars
Creator and Director Liz Lerman

I invite you into the world of Healing Wars, a project that has combined research, workshops and performance as a means of giving us all time to dwell on the meanings and implications of war. I have been joined in this evolving process by an amazing group of research sites, financial supporters and open-minded audiences with whom we have engaged for the past 32 months. The brilliant cast and designers have collaborated on questions big and small. The piece you see today would be entirely different if any one of them had not joined me.

This enterprise was instigated by the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. These big ceremonial moments are both an opportunity to rethink the past as well as to observe and discover who we are becoming. My initial quest was to find out more about what had happened to women during those Civil War years, believing that there was bound to be new scholarship on the subject since our centennial 50 years ago. There is.

I was fascinated by the documentation of women who dressed as men and entered the conflict as soldiers, as well as the nuns of Emmitsburg, Maryland, who were on the Gettysburg battlefield to aid, heal and baptize the fallen, which made me consider the relationship of spirit to healing and death. I also pursued the individual lives of nurse practitioners looking for them in diaries, books and at the most wonderful National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick. It was there, encountering a room of photographs of amputees, that I made the absolute link to our current wars.

What happens when the soldiers come home? If the soldiers are women is it different? What lingers in the wounds of the body and how do our minds accommodate what has happened? Although it seems that this line of inquiry is about those who fight, I was driven by the urgency of what is going on around us as our country has been at war for so long. I began to reflect about those of us whose fathers may have served, but whose families are now spared the brunt of this fight. I began to wonder about the nature of numbness within the civilian population.

Healing Wars is this performance that you are seeing. But it is also a series of events and encounters that I hope enables more thought, discussion and connection to the aftermath of what seems like endless battles. The project will continue to grow as we travel the country and bring these stories to life.

I thank all the people at Arena Stage and The National Civil War Project, for their early and ongoing support. Please be in touch with your questions, thoughts and responses.

Healing Wars was commissioned by the George Washington University.

The development of Healing Wars has been made possible by the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University.

Production support provided by Peak Performances at Montclair State University (NJ). Additional support provided by the David Bruce Smith Foundation.

The presentation of Healing Wars was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Poignant.”– Washington Post

“Stunning …
visually powerful.”– Broadway World

“A visionary work.”– Talkin’ Broadway

5 stars.
Healing Wars
is physical theater at its finest.”– DC Metro Theater Arts

“A powerful piece.”– MD Theatre Guide

“This is just what
Arena Stage and Washington theatre
should be serving up!”– DC Theatre Scene

“A stunning and utterly original spectacle.”– Woman Around Town

Healing Wars

Bill Pullman
Bill Pullman