William Electric Black will direct “The Lonely Soldier Monologues (Women at War In Iraq)” by Helen Benedict. The play is based on Benedict’s book, “The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq” (Beacon Press, April 2009), an intimate, unflinching, and sometimes disturbing portrait of women in today’s military. Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, Manhattan, will present the work March 5 to 22.
More women soldiers are fighting in Iraq than in any other American war in history, yet they face a dual challenge: They are participating on combat more than ever before, but because only one in ten soldiers is female, they are often painfully alone. This isolation, along with a military culture hostile to women, denies them the camaraderie soldiers depend on for survival and subjects them to sexual persecution by their comrades. As one soldier said, “I ended up waging my own war against an enemy dressed in the same uniform as mine.”
In “The Lonely Soldier,” Helen Benedict, a professor at Columbia University, humanizes the complex issues of war, misogyny, class, race, homophobia, poet-traumatic stress disorder and more through the compelling testimonials of five women of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds who served in Iraq between 2003 and 2006. By following the women from their childhood through enlistment, training, active duty in Iraq and home again, she vividly brings to life their struggles and challenges.
The play features monologues by seven female soldiers, gathered from Benedict’s interviews and correspondence for the book. Audiences will have the thrilling experience of being face-to-face with the characters, adding the immediacy of theater to what is already a rich literary experience. This dramatic treatment of the book was conceived by William Electric Black, a veteran stage director and TV writer, who saw the potential for a powerful theater piece when he read the monologues Benedict had fashioned from her interviews.