In commemoration of Veterans’ Day, the Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center will present ‘Ghosts of War’ at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday November 9. The play is a production of the Griffin Theatre of Chicago, and will be performed in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College.
The play is the true story of Ryan Smithson, who was a typical 16-year-old high-school student until 9/11. “I’d thought about joining the military the moment I saw the towers fall,” Smithson wrote in his book of the same title, and which Griffin Theatre has adapted into a stage production. But this is no ordinary teenager’s story. Instead of opting for college life, Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve when he was seventeen. Two years later, he was deployed to Iraq as an Army engineer.
His story—and the stories of thousands of other soldiers—is nothing like what you see on CNN or read about in the New York Times. This unforgettable story about combat, friendship, fear, and a soldier’s commitment to his country peels back the curtain on the realities of war in a story all Americans should experience.
Smithson’s poignant, often harrowing account, especially vivid in sensory details, chronicles his experiences in basic training and his tour of duty in Iraq. He lucidly recounts the intensity of battle and the pain of losing comrades. For Smithson, the war is a source of personal enlightenment, and this story vividly brought to life on stage is a remarkable, deeply penetrating personal account that will compel audiences to reflect on their own thoughts about duty, patriotism and sacrifice.
Patrick Spradlin, producer of the Center’s Cultural Arts Series, spoke of the play and the producing company. “We’ve had Griffin Theatre here before with a military-theme play,” he said. “Their production of ‘Letters Home’ was such a powerful work, and showed a side of active servicemen and women that the public doesn’t ordinarily see.”
He added that ‘Ghosts of War’ will be especially powerful for one particular reason. “Ryan Smithson himself will be traveling with the play. While he doesn’t appear onstage in his own story, he will be conducting a talkback session after the performance. It’s a rare opportunity for the audience to meet the person about whom the play is written.”
Spradlin further noted that the production is free to veterans, on a first-come basis day of show, and subject to availability. “We scheduled this show where we did because it does speak so eloquently about the experience of those in uniform. We want all veterans to see the show. We are offering free admission as a means of saying thank you for those who have served or are serving.”
Tickets for ‘Ghosts of War’ are available from the CLC Theatre Box Office at (218) 855-8199 or online at www.clcmn.edu/arts Veterans wishing to take advantage of the offer of free tickets should try to arrive at least a half hour prior to curtain.
The production is sponsored by Prairie Bay Grill and Catering, the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 22, and the Purple Heart Foundation. The entire CLC Performing Arts Center season is made possible in part by an operating grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.