Since Coming in Hot wrapped up its Tucson, AZ performances and has hit the road for LA. We're sharing a collection of reflections from post-show audience free-writes, open forums, and facilitated discussions. During the month of September, Coming in Hot took the stage at six area high schools, Pima Community College, the Univeristy of Arizona Poetry Center, a Veterans in Higher Education conference, and a few local living roomgs. The diverse locales and audience sparked powerful, collaborative dialogues across generations:
Tucson High School
"I feel the weight of many years of history--the stories of men and women whose lives are forgotten but whose struggles mirror my own. . . [this is] a war memorial more meaningful than a statue or a wreath. War/anti-war; knowledge/awareness; compassion/grief."
"I feel a deep power from within, hearing a tale of . . . women in the army. It takes away the simplistic views I had about the army and threw them in the trash. I see that the army is fear, it is sadness, it is loneliness. The army, especially for a women, is a complex world."
"I feel sad not only because my mother is in the army and I wish she could be here with me, but because its not easy to be a woman soldier. It motivates me to want to be in the military even more. I feel grateful for our women who serve in the military."
"I feel really frightened by this play. When I first walked through these doors I was interested, maybe inspired, to join the military, now I'm afraid."
"I can feel each pain and struggle these women have been through! I felt as if i was there when I heard each story. I have a brand new respect for military women and it has opened my eyes about wanting to go to Westpoint after high school."
"I wouldn't join the military, but if a woman feels that God wants her to join, she should be able to without fearing the male soldiers and what they might do."
"This has got to be one of the hardest things I have ever listened to. Women don't deserve to be treated this way, especially by men they are working with."
"The Israeli army will be a different experience by far, as a family and community. I think because it is more expected that women will join. I will not get raped or harassed, like these women did."
"I plan on joining the military or Coast Guard after high school. To hear how many women in the military go through so much makes me want to be part of something bigger than myself."
University of Arizona Veterans in Higher Education Conference
"I believe this [play] would be a great program to not only spread to civilian women, but to try to assemble active duty women from all ranks and all forces. As an active duty female, I believe young sailors/soldiers/marines would benefit from exploring this side of combat, both male and female."
"Profound feelings. It took me back like I was there again. Not in a good way. I hated it. I loved it. Well done."
"This was some pretty powerful stuff. We have had a deaf ear to women's issues for way too long and still do not want to face the realities. This play is a wonderful means of awareness that just opens the doors slightly . . . and we need to bust it completely open."
"Too dark. Too sad. No one spoke about patriotism? Courage? Satisfaction?"
Hamilton High School
"These women go through hell and back more times than the male soldiers do."
"I feel shocked and ashamed of myself. I have never really thought twice about women in the military, let alone what they might be going through. . . this performance has reminded me of the things that go on outside of my little bubble of a world."
"I saw and felt all the women's stories. . . as a result I want to talk to anyone in my family who was in the military to see and understand any of their stories."
"I have never felt this way. I feel captivated and touched. . . taken all throughout the horrid experiences a woman has to endure so she can help serve her country. As a man, I feel guilty to have to share the title of "man," for what man has done."
"I feel like I want to do something more. I know I am a very strong girl and now I feel like I am wasting it. . . I am so impressed by how strong women can be. I am glad this is being performed for people."
House party/fundraising salon hosted by Shannon Cain, Kore Press Fiction Editor
"I feel grateful to the artists for giving me a meaningful way to engage with the overwhelming reality of what is occurring in the world--the cost of what my country is doing. I have not found other meaningful ways of engaging. I find most of the ways these issues are presented and discussed to be inhumane, alienating and even more painful."
"It was easy to visualize women in war---the conflicts, the intensity, the never-ending injustices--danger from within our military. I feel loss of life, permanent scaring--damaged souls. . . perhaps the lucky ones are the dead."
"I feel like I've overlooked and not honored my own military upbringing. Yes, Air Force brat was such a badge of pride, but the late 60s and 70s buried that and I buried that and all the families that I knew who lost---literally "lost": MIA. Dads, husbands. Thank you for bringing those memories to the surface."
House party/fundraising salon hosted by Linda Green, anthropology professor at the University of Arizona
"Glad you brought these voices forward. Really found the piece about the pow wow---the inability to speak---very significant! It really brought us back to the silenced voices of women!
"Coming in Hot" clearly opens the space rather than claiming triumph. Thank you for that honesty."
One audience member stated how conflicted she felt about her response to the play: being proud of the strength and courage depicted by the women warriors and at the same time being aware of how deeply anti-war she is.
Someone else raised a question about the status of women in the Israeli army, guessing that they do not experience the same levels of harassment and abuse that women soldiers in the US military do. He also wondered what women vets face when they return, what kind of community do they form or can they look to be received back into? As a Native American, he noted that the Pow wow is a place for warriors to return to and find a home in.
Catalina Foothills High School
"I don't support war, I don't know who would, but I really respect those strangers who live to die. Isn't that a cornerstone of the military, of war, in general? Death?"
"I feel confused as if I am not able to be the person needed for my country, where there is life free and bold. I cannot rise to the occasion of becoming one who protects others. Where do we find this strength, this liberty? How do we understand the unknown? Where do I fit in?. . ."
"I feel like I would like to serve my country but I couldn't do it. I feel like the government covers up the truth. I feel like most war isn't necessary."
"I feel incredibly lucky in the most absurd way. . .it seems completely wrong that I should be so lucky when so many more, the majority of the world is less lucky than me. Why do I get to be comfortable? Why do I have family and friends that love me? Why don't I ever have to pay some kind of steep price for all my good fortune? maybe it will come eventually. I am so selfish for wishing I won't have to."
"The most shocking message I got from the play was that of sexual harassment in the military. Here, servicemen are portrayed as being honorable and something to aspire to, but when they are pulled away from society they are reduced to basic instincts. i also think that the military doesn't share this information with the public."
City High School
"You should have more pro military stories. I know multiple soldiers who are women and they're experiences were much different. I heard some stories from the Gulf War and a lot has changed since then."
"I feel so heart broken that even living in the 21st century that women do not get the respect they deserve even with bravery, desperately fighting for their country. I actually cried. I never cry. Incredible. Truly incredible."
"I feel amazed at how much sexism there is among people who are supposed to be the heroes of our country."
"I can't get how people go about their business during the day let alone sleep at night knowing that people are being tortured, dying, starving and yet. . . we don't even bother to lift a finger."
"I feel sad and confused about the truth of what happens to women in the army. No one should be treated like that."