It Takes An Army: Building The World of Other Than Honorable, Part 3

Geva is thrilled to present the world premiere of  Other Than Honorable, written by Jamie Pachino and directed by Kimberly Senior, running April 25-May 21! As our team plunges into tech rehearsals, we’re offering a behind-the-scenes series on how Geva constructs a new play for the Wilson Stage:

Projection Design: How To Call Home

Projected video plays a huge role in Other Than Honorable, particularly in the Skype conversations our protagonist, Grace Rattigan, has with her husband, Billy, who is deployed in Afghanistan.

Because Billy only appears onstage via Skype, it’s perfectly conceivable that a thrifty producer might stage Billy’s entire role with a pre-recorded film of the actor “Skyping.” Instead, our team felt it was vital that the actors playing Grace and Billy be able to interact with each other and their technology in real time, in order to maintain the scenes’ authenticity. Our Billy, played by John Wernke, will be live-streamed into the play from an offstage “room” built just for him, to represent his base in Afghanistan. Projection designer Miles Polaski wrote about the team’s decision to live-stream Billy’s Skype calls in the production:

We first began to explore how to treat Billy’s Skype calls and quickly decided that Billy should be played and streamed in live.  Because he and Grace have a number of very crucial scenes together we wanted to make sure that the two characters would be able to react and communicate in a dynamic way.  Recording Billy could lead to a more static performance and would have put the whole weight of these scenes on Grace.  So, a live Billy broadcast was an early choice.

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Actor John Wernke ducks into this corner below the Wilson Stage to livestream his scenes as Billy Rattigan over Skype.

Skyping While Deployed Overseas

These Skype calls also gave the creative team an impetus to learn more about how deployed military members keep in touch with their friends and family back home: According to dramaturg Jenni Werner, service members deployed to places like Afghanistan have somewhat limited access to Internet. But, they can sign up for time to Skype home from computer rooms in Moral, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Centers on their post. When soldiers call home this way, they generally wait on a long line for a turn at the computers, their time online is limited, and they are surrounded on all sides by dozens of other soldiers calling home. It’s a loud “call center” without much privacy. In other cases, a group of military members deployed long-term might split the costs of getting their own satellite, affording them more privacy and control over their Internet usage.

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Calls home can be tricky when a service member is deployed in an active military zone for many months. The U.S. Armed Forces does restrict service members and their loved ones from revealing certain details—specific information related to missions, for example—that would threaten the safety of either party. Even beyond that, many websites advising service members and their loved ones recommend that both parties carefully choose what they discuss together during a deployment. It’s a time when tensions run high both on the home front and on post, and everyday disagreements can quickly escalate or be misinterpreted across all that distance. And nothing could be worse than if—heaven forbid— your last call with your soldier is a fight before they head into battle. Military.com offers the following advice:

Use this time apart to focus on what you love about your service member. Any negativity conveyed in the phone call may linger and haunt both of you. The last thing you want is your service member distracted or distraught when he’s headed out on his next mission. And, you definitely don’t want to worry about or regret what was said, or not said, the last time you were able to talk to your service member on the phone.

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