A Provocative New Documentary Play on MST — Military Sexual Trauma


I am really proud to recommend this new play by my dear friend, Donna Fiumano-Farley, to all of you.

I met Donna some years ago when we were in the master’s theater program together at Hunter College — especially the superb documentary theater course, taught by the superlative Linda Ben-Zvi, that helped to accelerate the research and development process for this play.

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One of the things I admire about the idea of the play as well as the work itself is the imperative behind it — we cannot and we must not allow MST, as it is called, to go unaddressed. Funny how the radical right rails against the lifting of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but remains stony silent when it comes to the savage rape and murder of soldiers by soldiers.

At the same time, my sense is that Donna does not come to the writing of the play with an agenda in mind — this, in fact, would be antithetical to the whole point of documentary theater. For this isn’t Donna’s story, these are stories of real women in the military. How we react will tell us a lot about who we really are as Americans.

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And, by the way, just today I read that Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar will introduce federal legislation on Monday “intended to preserve evidence and documentation of military sexual trauma, an effort to address one of the biggest issues facing the military as more women join the armed services.

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Here is more from the article (in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune) about the bill and the horrific underlying issue:

The bill, which has strong bipartisan support, is designed to assist victims of sexual assault and trauma in the military who may not immediately report the case but seek benefits and treatment for it afterward. It also will allow research into sexual assault and harassment in the military, which is known as Military Sexual Trauma, or MST. In 2008, 21 percent of women tested by the military were found to have been the victims of MST.

“It’s a small piece to make sure these things don’t fall through the cracks,” said Klobuchar, D-Minn. “These are things that any civilian would expect, and it brings the military up to that same level.”

There is no unified standard for maintaining evidence of sexual assault across the five branches of the military. In many cases records that include forensic material are destroyed in one to five years.

May Donna’s play go a long, long way to righting this great moral wrong.

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Below is the information from the press release. Please go and support the play — and the highest ideals, not the lowest instincts, of our service people in the military. God bless America.

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Red Fern Theatre Company is pleased to announce the world premiere of Donna Fiumano-Farley’s A Shot Away, directed by Melanie Moyer Williams. A Shot Away performs in a three-week limited engagement at the LABA Theatre at the 14th St. Y (344 E. 14th St., bet. 1st and 2nd). Performances begin Thurs., March 31, and continue through Sun., April 17. Opening night is Sat., April 2, 8pm.

Tina Priest is dead. Is it suicide? Or is it because, just weeks before, this American soldier reported she had been raped on her army base in Iraq? Her mother and twin sister are left with many doubts and unanswered questions.

Priest is not alone: six other soldiers recount their experiences as survivors of military sexual trauma. A Shot Away is a docudrama about sexual assault in the U.S. military, based entirely on interviews with American soldiers who have been sexually assaulted by their “fellow” soldiers. In their own words, the soldiers explore this ongoing epidemic in our military and examine what can be done to address and prevent instances of sexual assault and rape.

According to a 2009 U.S. Department of Defense report, there have been more than 3,000 reported cases of sexual assault committed by soldiers against soldiers. This number doesn’t include an estimated 80 percent unreported cases.

On Tues., Feb. 15, more than a dozen U.S. veterans filed a class-action suit in federal court, attempting to force the Pentagon to change how it handles cases of military sexual trauma.

Panayiota Bertzikis, a Coast Guard veteran, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit and one of the veterans interviewed for A Shot Away.

“The problem of rape in the military is not only service members getting raped, but it’s the entire way that the military as a whole is dealing with it,” says Bertzikis. “The entire culture needs to be changed.”

The production features scenic design by Katherine Akiko Day and lighting design by Marie Yokoyama. Ken Hall is the dramaturg.

A Shot Away plays the following regular schedule through Sun., April 17: Thurs.-Sat., 8pm; Sundays, 3pm. There will be an additional performance on Mon., April 11, 7pm. Tickets are $25 and are available at here or at 866-811-4111. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the box office half an hour prior to the performance. Running Time: 90 minutes

More information on the lawsuit is available at the Service Women’s Action Network.

Here are some bios for your persual:

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Donna Fiumano-Farley (Playwright) spent the past four years interviewing soldiers and writing A Shot Away and is very grateful to the brave women and men who shared their stories. Her plays have previously been produced at venues such as Manhattan Theatre Source and as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. Ten years after graduating from NYU with an MA in education, she went back to school to attend the MA program in theatre at Hunter College, where she became interested in documentary theatre and conceived the idea for A Shot Away. The play was previously read and workshopped as part of Red Fern Theatre Company’s Dark Night Reading Series.

Melanie Moyer Williams (Director), a cum laude graduate of Duke University, is also founder and executive artistic director of the Red Fern Theatre Company. Her credits for the company include the New York Premiere of Shirley Lauro’s All Through Night, Gentrifusion, +30NYC, Miss Evers’ Boys (Cast garnered NYIT and AUDELCO Nominations), An Ideal Husband, A Piece of My Heart, Who Will Carry the Word?, The Exonerated, The Long Christmas Ride Home, Found A Peanut, Two Rooms, And Patient A. Most recently, she directed in the One-Minute-Play festival at APAC. In the last year, Melanie has also directed a staged version of Handel’s Messiah for Pocket Opera NY and worked with Shirley Lauro on a reading of her new play, The Radiant at the Actors’ Studio and Ensemble Studio Theatre. Other NY Credits include Memorial Days and the World Premiere of Henry Kissinger (FringeNYC) by John Attanas; Medea excerpts for Cypreco and the New York Public Library; Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, When The World Was Green and ICarus’s Mother. She directed That is the Question in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival (named one of the Best in the Festival). Internationally, she has directed A Tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber with the Youth Symphony Orchestra of El Salvador in El Salvador with Wanderlust Theatre Company. Prior to moving to New York, Melanie was also a founder and Managing Director of the Camden Shakespeare Company in Camden, Maine.

The Red Fern Theatre Company, founded in March 2006, strives to provoke social awareness and change through its theatrical productions and outreach. Each play produced by the Red Fern Theatre Company addresses social issues that range in scope from local to global. Each production is paired with a philanthropy whose work relates to the social themes of the play. We educate our audience on the philanthropy’s mission, and a portion of the ticket sales from each play produced is donated to the designated philanthropy. By forming this association, RFTC is able to respond directly to the people affected by the issues addressed in the play. To date, Red Fern has produced the revivals of ten plays, one New York premiere, and the World premiere of a commissioned collection of short plays. The RFTC is a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax-exempt to the fullest extent of the law. Please visit us at www.redferntheatre.org.