I need you to help me. I’m looking for veterans to join me with my part in this production. This will involve planning, setting up, and rubbing elbows with people. We need help on the set, stage, and many other things on the way to the performances. We’ll need supernumeraries, which means you may even be able to be a part of the production- on stage! This will require some of your time, but not too much. Our first task will be either late February or early March. Come be a part of it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So now I’m helping to produce an Opera – The Canticle of the Black Madonna (www.canticleoftheblackmadonna.com). What the hell do I know about opera? Not much, but I do know that this opera is an amazing tale of redemption and recovery. It is a story of a combat veteran and his wife who both have emotional trauma and by sticking together they get through it all. It is an inspirational story with exceptional music, but beyond that the art itself has the power to help veterans, their families, and the community. Art saves lives, and that’s what this is really about. I talk about this a lot because I know first hand. I don’t want to look weak in anyone’s eyes, but I had more problems than most know about after being critically injured in Iraq. A very good friend of mine was killed, another hurt bad, and the right side of my body was crushed by a vehicle borne IED. Like the majority of combat veterans with shellshock, PTSD, battle fatigue, or whatever you want to call it, I isolated myself and decided to self medicate with drugs and alcohol. I hid in my hole and convinced myself that the world would have been a better place if I was just killed in combat.
I was soul-wrecked until I started painting again. Slowly, I began to write about my experiences and with the help of some amazing people these stories turned into a book. That book was picked up by an amazing publisher – Ooligan Press – and now it’s coming out next spring. On that note, I received great news today: the second leg of my tour has now been funded.
Not everyone can paint or write a book. Some veterans don’t want to do this. We don’t need to be talented musicians, or sculptors, or dancers for art to save us. I learned this when I was planning the readings around the veterans anthology I published. Just having the readings helped men and women I hadn’t met, or haven’t spoken to for years. During these readings I would be embraced by soldiers from different companies. They hugged me with tears in their eyes knowing that I understood what they were going through. People flew out from miles and miles away to hear their brothers-in-arms read poems and stories. This shared event did more good than most people can understand.
So, what do I know about opera? I know Ethan and Tiziana are good people. They are the force behind it. I know they’re good people and they want to help veterans. This has been my primary motivation in the last few years. I started helping veterans one at a time by loaning money, giving up a spare room or a couch, or just helping them when they need me. I found that with art I can help more than one at a time. More than that, they can help themselves by being a part of something bigger. But this opera is so big that I will need your help.