Writing about soldiers and the effects of military deployment stirs up old ghosts for Buffy Sedlachek, a playwright at Climb Theatre in Inver Grove Heights.
Sedlachek’s father posthumously received the Navy Cross — the military’s second highest honor — after he gave his life in the Korean War to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.
Since then, the relationship between a soldier and the community in which they live — and what motivates soldiers to risk their own lives in combat — have been “core” questions in Sedlachek’s own life.
A former actor whose plays have been shown at the Walker Art Center, the Denver Center Theater and other venues, Sedlachek chose to dig into some of those themes as part of her latest production, “Return to Honor.” Over the next month and a half, the play will be shown in 19 different locations across Minnesota and Wisconsin.
At its heart, “Return to Honor” is an exploration of “reintegration issues” — challenges that soldiers face when they return home after combat. The performance depicts numerous situations, some challenging, some edgy and some humorous, in which veterans and their families and co-workers find themselves in post-deployment life, Sedlachek wrote in a press release on the production.
“[The purpose of] the play is basically to foster community awareness,” said Nancy Gertner, a retired Navy servicewoman and member of Oak Grove Church Lutheran Church in Richfield. The church originally sponsored the production, which was commissioned by the Veterans Reintegration Network, Sedlachek and Gertner said.
Returning soldiers can face an assortment of difficulties when they return home after combat deployment, Gertner said. Some struggle to find a role in a family that has moved on without them. Others must cope with flashbacks, disturbed sleep patterns or with “hyper-vigilance” — the feeling of danger or risk that veterans may experience in public or crowded places, Gertner said.
Because Sedlachek’s father and husband both served in the military, the playwright was specifically chosen by Climb Theatre founder and director Peg Wetli to write “Return to Honor.”
Much of the play is based on interviews that Sedlachek conducted with veterans and their family and friends, the playwright said. The cast consists of three actors, Clark Donnelly, Darrick Mosley and Jean Wolff.
“Because of my personal history, I have an affinity for the topic,” said Sedlachek, who has written three other plays on soldiering and reintegration.The play's 19-show tour was funded by an Arts Touring grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Last week, Climb hosted a preview of the production. No additional performances have yet been scheduled for Inver Grove Heights, although Sedlachek hopes to host another production in the community.
“I hope to honor those who have served and are serving [with the play],” Sedlacheck said. “I hope for the audience to be inspired with respect for those who serve. I hope that the play shows strategies for all of us to be able to support veterans and their families.”