Barbara Garshman says people open up to her. As a first time playwright, she has created a new play that is based on the true stories of Veterans coming home and the challenges they faced. Remarkably, her first go around at the theatre festival circuit led to an acceptance at the FringeNYC, making its return this week after a short hiatus.
The story, created in the form of a dramatic play, begins September 2005 in New York City. PFC Gladys Mathis and Specialist E4 Miguel Colon ride in a bus from Ft. Dix, back from eighteen months deployment in Iraq. Like Katrina, the storm that has just swept through New Orleans, destroying everything in its path and no one was prepared, the war has swept through their lives and nothing will ever be the same. Do they realize it yet? Maybe just a little. Greeted at the Armory by their Staff Sergeant Peter Graziano , who was forced to come home early having sustained serious injuries, and to their families, they agree to meet in two days to visit one of their squad members, still in hospital recovering from injuries sustained in the same battle.
Garshman's AFTER BURN tells the story of war and what it’s like to come “home” in the one day these combat soldiers join forces to save the life of PFC Scooter Lee, while moving back and forth throughout the day through the dramas of their very different personal lives. We caught up with Ms. Garshman to gain more insight on her new work.
Q: When did you begin writing plays/musicals and why? How many plays have you written?
Barbara Garshman: This is my first play. Up to this point, I was an Emmy honored writer for the soap opera Guiding Light for CBS and a five time Emmy-nominated producer. I have also written a soon to be published book entitled Breakthrough: from Sharecropper’s Daughter to Top Cop, a biography about a black police officer in Mississippi, who was the first female police officer in her town and had to fit against sexual discrimination and the Justice Department of the USA to get justice. I have also had many magazine articles on subjects as varied as collectibles to undercover narcotics officers to soap opera interviews published. I am probably best known for my soap opera work. However, I am also known for my ability to get people to trust me and reveal things they have not told anyone else. Perhaps, that is the reason that much of what I write has its basis in non-fiction and real people. After Burn is totally based on the interviews I did with soldiers returning from deployment in Iraq in 2005 and I have used much of what they told me without jeopardizing their anonymity. The battles I mention happened. The injuries happened. The nightmares happened. Sometimes, the very words they used.
Q: What inspired you to write this most recent work? How long have you been working on it and how has it evolved?
Barbara Garshman: I was inspired to write this after seeing the soldiers return that day in 2005 and then spending so much time talking to them. I was blown away by how tough it was for them since they came back, and I was pretty certain that most people were ignorant of their daily battles in America with no support from their government or from us, their countrymen.
Q: What was the most fascinating aspect of writing this play and seeing it come to life on stage?
Barbara Garshman: Everyone who is part of this project cares about the veterans and wanted to work on the project because of the quality (not my words) of the work and the stories it told. Many of them have people who were in the military who are suffering. One actress is doing the play because it’s the only way she knows how to help her cousin right now. The Stage Manager and the Sound Designer are both military brats. As for me, I never expected to get so caught up with these veterans. Yet they remain a part of my life and my life’s mission.
AFTER BURN began as a concept for an original prime time TV series I developed. I wrote the pilot script and then got bogged down attempting to figure out how to sell it. I had worked in prime time tv for many years as a former Director of Prime Time Programming, East Coast for NBC and had been involved in creating the mini-series as a new dramatic form and developing two hour movies and drama series, so it was a natural transition to create a project for this medium.
Six years ago, I began volunteer work for All Stars Project, a youth development organization that is dedicated to helping poor populations and bringing them into mainstream so they can reap the benefits of the American dream as well. They also have a theatre, the Castillo Theatre, which is politically and socially active in terms of the material it presents to this population and to anyone else interested. The Artistic Director, Dan Friedman, Ph.D., asked me to do a reading of AFTER BURN, the teleplay. I did, using real combat soldiers as actors. What was most important for me was the soldiers’ response. They really loved the teleplay, feeling that it was the first material they had seen that “told it like it was.”
When the reading was over, Dan suggested that I turn it into a play. I had never written a play before. He told me he would help me. He became my unofficial dramaturgue. The next year spent turning the teleplay into a theater play was an extraordinary one for me. It was as if these characters had been waiting for me to find the right métier for them. And, in Dan, the right person to help me see what could be better , what worked and what didn’t. Their words spilled out of me. It was a writer’s dream and happens rarely, when the characters speak to you. I know for certain that the words and ideas come from somewhere in the universe. Yes, they come through me and are of me. But they are not only me. It is the most extraordinary experience and there is no other way to describe it but mystical.
Q: Where would you like to see this particular work go from here?
Barbara Garshman: I would like to see this play move forward and forward and forward, not only in the commercial theater so that more and more people can learn about the truth of what’s happening to the soldiers but about what war does to people.I am also exploring ways to take this play to more and more soldiers because I believe it can help them and their families.
AFTER BURN opens October 12th at the FringeNYC 2018
Performance dates and times are
FRIDAY, October 12 @ 7:00
SUNDAY, October 14 @ 1:00
WEDNESDAY, October 17 @ 7:00
FRIDAY, October 19 @ 4:45
SATURDAY, October 20 @ 9:15
For tickets visit their website at : www.afterburntheplay.org/
NOTE: FOR THIS YEAR’S NYC FRINGE FESTIVAL AUDIENCE MEMBERS MUST MEET AT THE “FRINGEHUB” AT LEAST FIFTEEN MINUTES PRIOR TO SHOWTIME IN ORDER TO BE ESCORTED TO THE VENUE WHERE THE SHOW IS TAKING PLACE. LATECOMERS WILL NOT BE SEATED
FRINGEHUB LOCATION: 685 WASHINGTON ST. @CHARLES ST. NEW YORK, NY 10014
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