GV presents world premiere of veteran-focused production

GVL / Eric Coulter
An Identified Enemy will be premiering November 9th. The play was written by Max Bush and directed by Roger Ellis.

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter An Identified Enemy will be premiering November 9th. The play was written by Max Bush and directed by Roger Ellis.

Kari Norton

Combining live acting and video projections to give audiences a more realistic feel, Grand Valley State University’s theater program is adding a multimedia twist to the world premiere of the play “An Identified Enemy.”

Written by GVSU alumnus Max Bush, “An Identified Enemy” is an 80-minute production set in both the Middle East and Michigan.

The play starts by telling the story of Jamie Foster and his girlfriend, Della, who have both recently returned to their civilian lives after being in the Iraq War. Foster struggles to transition back into his old life and pull himself away from his obsession with the past, said Bridget Vanderhoof, who portrays Della.

The opening begins with a video displaying a panoramic view of Baghdad to get the audience accustomed to the scene.

“I want so badly to do the character justice, but it is hard since I do not have the experience of fighting in the military,” Vanderhoof said. “I respect the many people who fight for our country, and I want to represent them in a realistic fashion.”

Included in the 17-member student cast is Baschar Umran as the lead Jamie Foster, Vanderhoof as Della, Navy veteran Ryan Jackson as the Baghdad street vendor Jalil, and Army veteran Brian Hudson as the U.S. Defense Department prisons expert Paul Strock.

Senior theater faculty member and Army veteran Roger Ellis is directing the production as part of the School of Communications’ Cultural Diversity in Theatre Program.

“What mainly makes this performance stand out is the immediacy of the experience,” Ellis said. “The actors are live onstage, the issues are contemporary and very relevant, and the documentary projections onstage help to bring the real world into the playhouse in a very experimental and non-traditional manner.”

Film and video production student Zachary Hampel produced the video effects that are projected onstage, and student audio designers Dennis Dembeck and Christopher Greene produced all the sound effects.

“Much of the play itself is focused on nuances that were huge in the Iraq war,” Hampel said. “Photographs and interviews that would usually just be left to the audience’s imagination appear on screen, basing the play much more solidly in historical fiction than simply fiction.”

The performance is a highly visual production and unlike a very traditional play, Ellis said. Video footage from the Al Jazeera news site will present a scene in which soldiers have been attacked and are dying.

“The audience can expect to see a play that is visually immersive,” Hampel said. “The videos exist to set a tone for the show and add an extra layer of intrigue to an already relevant and captivating show.”

Six performances are scheduled in the Louis Armstrong Theatre on the Allendale Campus for Nov. 9, 10, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 11 and 17 at 2 p.m.

Tickets range from $6 to $12 and are available from all Startickets outlets or the university box office from noon to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Veterans and their families receive free admission for all of the performances.

For more information call (616) 331-2300.
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