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9 Circles explores PTSD through theater

By Christina Casano
On February 25, 2013

Based on an actual trial for a crime that allegedly took place in 2006 during the Iraq War, 9 Circles is the fourth production in the Miami University theater department's season, directed by second-year graduate student Sarah Saddler.

Telling the story of Private Daniel Reeves, a young man returning from the front in Iraq, the show brings to the forefront alleged war crimes and how both the media and government reacted. The play follows Reeves through the court martial system after he is accused of invading an Iraqi home, raping a 14 year-old girl and killing her parents.

"The play guides the audience through the trial using the framework of Dante's Inferno," Saddler said.

The show reflects the work she has done on her thesis, focusing on war trauma in performance and military therapy methods that include theatre. Among other topics, 9 Circles deals with the depiction of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in performance.

Saddler chose the play because it posed questions to the audience rather than gave answers through the performance. She also said that unlike other political plays, it did not present war as either positive or negative.

"It speaks to our misunderstanding of war," Saddler said. "It heightens our consciousness as civilians in a country at war. No one likes talking about war."

Junior Erin Mizer, the production stage manager, reflected Saddler's point about the civilian perspective.

"I don't know much about the war in Iraq, and I'm kind of ashamed that I don't," Mizer said. "But I also think it's important to ask, should we be happy we don't know what it's like to live in a war zone? Should we be scared that we don't know what's actually happening?"

The hour and a half-long performance is completed without intermission while Daniel Reeves, played by senior Brendan Monte, remains onstage throughout.

It's an important show for Monte on two fronts, as this is not only a strenuous show for an actor, but it is his last with the theater department.

"I've been blessed to have been able to be in a show every semester that I've been here," Monte said. "It's sad, but it's good. Once it's completed, I'll be satisfied with my theatrical experience at Miami."

Monte's work on the show was in the stamina of the actor and in the psychological aspects of the character to get him through the nine separate scenes.

"The first four [scenes] are external, so we're seeing Reeves from other perspectives," Monte said. "In five through nine we start to examine the psyche of Reeves. The last scene is in his mind, with him on stage, and it's a powerful end."

The show is set in the round, meaning that the audience will be seated on all four sides of the stage. Set designer Weston Oberg, a senior theatre major, said that this set-up allows people to get closer to the action and the characters.

"It can make the audience feel like that person could be sitting right next to them," Oberg said.

Saddler and Oberg worked together to find a way to present the visual aspect of the show. "It was definitely a challenge. This show can be done on a bare stage," Oberg said. "I had to find a way to show how Reeves views the world after his experiences."

Saddler was interested in presenting 9 Circles because of the questions it asked about the characters and ourselves.

"If I was in his shoes, how would I react?" Saddler said she asked herself. "Who am I in context? The show does a good job of invoking our individual responsibilities in the context of the collective."

The show runs 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Studio 88 located in the Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are $6 for students and $9 for adults and are available through the Shriver Box Office.


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