By Paul Gessler

BALTIMORE (WJZ) – An ensemble of seven military veterans star in this weekend’s “To Be A Soldier” play at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company.

The play is a compilation of scenes from about a dozen Shakespeare plays specific to military experience.

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“The scenes that they’ve selected say something about them,” Ron Heneghan, CSC’s Director of Education said.

The shows are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $22 to the general public and free for veterans or active-duty military.

“Most of us had never acted before starting classes here a few years ago,” David Hanauer, a Marine combat engineer from 1987-1993 said. “It’s really satisfying to get to act and express myself artistically.”

Many of the veterans came to Studio at CSC through its veterans’ programming.

“Many of them have never been artists before and some of them had no intention of becoming artists when they stepped in here,” a retired Marine who studied theater in college said. “We can talk to each other about (past trauma). It’s just something I’ve never had with a cast.”

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The veterans say they bring their individual service and combat experiences to the stage with them.

“During the time that we do this play, two veterans are going to kill themselves. That resonates with me. And, it’s something I can’t do anything about, but I try,” Richard Wirth, a Vietnam veteran, said.

Acting is an outlet to many veterans, who would encourage others to find an art to embrace.

“Everything you do has purpose when you’re in the Army, and when you leave the Army you lose that purpose,” Army veteran Chris Bennett said. “All soldiers are poets and philosophers to some extent.”

The “To Be A Soldier” production is a 75-minute production with selections from: Henry IV, V, VI (Parts 1, 2, 3); Richard II; Richard III; Two Noble Kinsmen; King Lear; Timon of Athens; Macbeth; Hamlet; Much Ado About Nothing; and Antony and Cleopatra.

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Paul Gessler