By Maddie Orton
It’s been labeled an epidemic: sexual assault against women in the military. Premiere Stages hopes their newest production will create a dialogue about the problem — and maybe even make a difference. It’s called Soldier’s Heart.
“Soldier’s Heart is a deeply affecting play because it’s very topical,” says Premiere Stages Producing Artistic Director John Wooten. “We do plays so that people not only come and are entertained, but hopefully come and leave thinking about it, talking about it, that they learn something from it.”
The play explores the challenges female soldiers face. And veterans consulted on the project to help shed light on that experience. Adrienne Brammer and Clara Garcia are acutely aware of the issue.
“When you’re reporting sexual harassment or sexual assault, you’re reporting through your chain of command or you can report to a chaplain, which is like a religious official,” explains Brammer, retired combat videographer for the U.S. Air Force. When asked what to do if the assailant is that official, she responds, “God, I don’t know.”
“The hesitation, of course is that they understand their career would come to a stop. And that is hard for us because we chose this, because we want it and we believe in it,” says Garcia, retired logistics specialist for the U.S. Navy.
The year 2013 saw a 50 percent increase in reports of sexual assault in the military. Some attribute this to a rise in incidents, while others call it the result of changes in policy.
“The military has made it easier for us to report it because there was such a hesitation before, and now we’re not being penalized as we used to,” says Garcia.
“I still have this little thing in the back of my head that ‘she’s probably lying,’ because that is the stigma. That’s the situation. They immediately cast doubt on the female,” explains Brammer.
There’s still a long way to go in making the military a safer place for female soldiers. And through performances and talkbacks with victim’s rights organization Safe Horizons and community partners, the production team hopes to raise awareness.
“I’m really happy to say I’ve never dealt with that situation and it doesn’t happen to everybody,” says Brammer. “And it hurts my heart when I hear people say that ‘this is what happens and this is what’s expected.’”
Soldier’s Heart kicks off Premiere Stages’ 10th anniversary mainstage season next week.