‘SNAFU’ highlights veterans’ struggles

"SNAFU,” UIC Theatre

The UIC Theatre production of “SNAFU” opens next week. The drama draws on true stories involving military personnel, their families and their doctors.

David Kersnar, a founding member of Lookingglass Theatre Company and UIC adjunct lecturer in theatre, directs UIC student actors in the world premiere of Jennie Buckman’s “SNAFU,” a drama about veterans changed by their war experiences.

Based loosely on Homer’s Odyssey, “SNAFU” begins with an American soldier coming home from Afghanistan after losing his leg. As he struggles to rebuild his relationships with his wife, son and mother, he encounters two veterans of wars decades earlier who still deal with ghosts, shifting family dynamics and the need to redefine themselves.

The script draws on true stories that playwright Jennie Buckman collected during a year’s research involving military personnel and veterans, their families, their doctors and agencies that serve veterans in the UK.

UIC’s performance will be the first staged production. Kersnar revised Buckman’s script to re-set the play from London to Chicago, with American veterans. The set by John Musial of Lookingglass Theatre will feature video projections against a draped parachute.

“This is a play not just about Chicago military vets, but also about those of us who struggle to help bring our warriors home in mind, body and spirit,” Kersnar said. “How do we create successful homecomings for those who sacrifice so much and are left with the residual trauma of war?”

Buckman is the founder of London’s Giants Theatre, which specializes in updating the classics. She is the former head of acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she taught for more than 20 years. She also worked at the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Guildhall School of Speech and Drama, and was a director with Common Stock Theatre. BBC Radio 4 has produced many of her plays, and she has written numerous episodes of the series “Westway” for BBC World Service.

The Feb. 21 performance will be followed immediately by a discussion with the playwright and director titled, “How do we return home?” Jonathan Arbarbanel, theatre critic and UIC adjunct lecturer, will moderate.

Admission is free to veterans who call the box office at 312-996-2939. Tickets can be purchased at the UIC Theatre box office or online for $17, $12 for college students, or $5 for high school students.

Student veterans who would like to participate in a video interview that will screen before each show can email hvasey@uic.edu

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