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Theater & Dance

‘Richard III’ was impetus for soldier’s story

‘Richard III’ was impetus for soldier’s story

Stephan Wolfert doesn’t have any great war stories. The soldier turned actor, however, does apprecia
‘Richard III’ was impetus for soldier’s story
Stephan Wolfert wrote and performs in his one-man play, "Cry 'Havoc!' " opening next Wednesday at Shakespeare & Company. (John Boccat)

Stephan Wolfert doesn’t have any great war stories.

The soldier turned actor, however, does appreciate as well as anyone the difficulty of leaving the Army and heading back to civilian life, and to a large degree that’s precisely what his one-man play, “Cry ‘Havoc!’ ” is all about.

Opening next Wednesday at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, “Cry ‘Havoc!’ ” examines the connection between the life of a soldier and William Shakespeare. Wolfert’s been performing in his own work for the past four years, and the idea came to him back in the early 1990s.

‘Cry ‘Havoc!’ ’

WHERE: Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble St., Lenox, Massachusetts

WHEN: Opens Wednesday, Aug. 3, and runs through Aug. 13; performance times vary

HOW MUCH: $60-$20

MORE INFO: (413) 637-3353, www.shakespeare.org

“I was already having a number of issues and some questions about my own service, and then a friend of mine was killed during training in some live-fire exercise,” remembered Wolfert, who spent nearly eight years in the U.S. Army, first as a medic and then an infantry officer.

“Then I saw a production of ‘Richard III’ and I just lost it. I didn’t really know that much about Shakespeare except the little I read about him in high school, but the opening monologue really hit me. I heard that rhythm and that poetry, and it was as if a fellow vet was saying to me, ‘now my service is done. What do I do? Where do I fit in?’ ”

Using some of Shakespeare’s most iconic characters, Wolfert decided to begin writing his own one-man show, examining a story of military service that often goes untold: the soldier’s struggle to reintegrate into society after his hitch in the Army or any other branch of armed service is up. Wolfert developed the play at the Bedlam Theatre in New York City, where one of his colleagues and a veteran himself, Eric Tucker, agreed to direct the play.

“We are all connected to a military vet in some way or another, and their issues are our issues, whether we like it or not,” said Tucker in a press release. “You may enjoy the show as a piece of theater and perhaps as a tool for social awareness, but our hope is that it stays with you long after, as a guide to identifying, appreciating and nurturing the veterans of your own community.”

Wolfert doesn’t let the enormity of the situation prevent him from taking part in the battle.

“I didn’t do much in the service,” said Wolfert. “I didn’t have a glorious service record. No medal of honor or purple hearts. But that doesn’t make my service or others like mine any less important. It’s hard adjusting and we need help. We have a post-show discussion, what I call part two of the show, and what happens is that many people get to share their experience.

“That’s helpful, but really what I’m trying to do is to show people how they can help, and I mean the people in the room with me right then. How can they volunteer or reach out to a vet, how can they donate their time.”

Wolfert grew up in Wisconsin, and never really performed until he was out of high school.

“I didn’t have the courage to do anything until I was in the Army,” he said. “Then I started doing some DJing and some emceeing, but I was always afraid to really immerse myself into it until I saw ‘Richard III.’ ”

That was more than 20 years ago. Wolfert went back to school, got a master’s from the Trinity Repertory Conservatory, and has been a professional stage actor in both Los Angeles and New York for more than 10 years now.

“The first time I performed my play in front of an audience I didn’t have a set script,” he said. “I just sat down in jeans and a T-shirt and started talking to the audience. It’s evolved since then and I do have a set script, and that’s why I have a part two. I don’t allow it to get into debating policy or what this group should do or what they shouldn’t. I’m just trying to reach the people in the room. It’s about what they can do.”

Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or bbuell@dailygazette.com.

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