Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Uh-oh: Coming in Hot too hot to touch?

photo by Krista Niles

The writers and director of the controversial new play by Kore Press recognized they had a hot-potato in their hands early on in the creative process. They wanted very much to avoid propagandist rhetoric and held in mind the notion that what art can do is to simply reveal, to allow a view through another's veil. The idea was that the power of revealing would open authentic dialogue among diverse and often polarized communities, as well as among individuals.

Although the general response so far has been a thumbs up, the attempt at a sincere exploration of highly sensitive material has invariably alienated us from some of the very groups we as a Press wished to engage: decision-makers in the Peace Movement criticized the lack of a clear stance against the military-industrial complex, a point that many second-wave feminists agree with. Then there is a question about whether or not a single actor should play 14 different characters from various backgrounds and ethnicities (but what of Anna Deveare Smith?). And, perhaps if the play were a little more detailed in its rendering of military life, service members might not see it as too radically liberal to attend?

"I came to this play expecting propaganda, but instead found truth," says one veteran in attendance, Jamie Jansen. "As a veteran who has been to both theatres of operation, it was not an easy transition back into normalcy. In part, this is because we will never be "normal" again. It changes you in very profound ways. I don't speak much about my experiences. They are tucked away in a box, and every attempt is made to keep them there. This play gave a voice to all of the experiences and feelings in that box. It is a true gift."

Controversy is a good thing--it gets people all riled up and talking--so perhaps we should not apologize after all for refusing to offer pat answers and just continue to raise the existential questions: Why is it that the country cannot stomach seeing women in power, at war, and find it so hard to bear witness to all of what happens there?

--Staff writers

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Coming in Hot" hit Tucson, September 24th-27th

Coming in Hot, a controversial new play adapted for the stage from Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks, From Vietnam to Iraq, premiered in Tucson on Sept 24-27, at the Rhythm Industry, with great acclaim and strong opinions from audience members.

The 14 characters in *Coming in Hot* are performed by 37-yr acting veteran Jeanmarie Simpson along side classically trained violin-sound artist Vicki Brown. In the debut performance, a large screen was hung on the backstage so the projections could temporarily occupy space on the Beckett-spare set. Images of WACs marching in formation, details of shapely airplane parts interspersed with a woman's arms/hands/grimace, Iraqi civilians, Baghdad streets, and a soldier's memorabilia (photos from the "Dead Iraqi Album") appeared billboard large for a moment or a scene, and then flickered away.

for touring schedule, upcoming appearances and more information, see

“Coming in Hot” is military lingo for arriving with guns blazing. The play, adapted for the stage by Shannon Cain, Lisa Bowden, and Jeanmarie Simpson is based on the book Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks, From Vietnam to Iraq (edited by Bowden & Cain, published by Kore Press, 2008). Both the book and the stage play offer a rare glimpse into the current status of women at work in the nation’s biggest corporation—the US military.

“A stage adaptation of Powder interests me deeply as a mother with a son who is about to be deployed for the second time, as a grandmother, and as a peace activist for 25 years,” says Simpson. “As an artist, the material cries out to be performed.”

Simpson, accomplished actress with 37 years’ experience on the stage, will perform all characters in the play. After the show, audiences will be invited to participate in a recorded open discussion about the complex issues raised in the play.

I approach a solo performance of Powder with more than a little trepidation and humility, knowing I will be channeling the voices of women who have literally been in the trenches and lived to tell the tale,” says Simpson. “It is in their honor, and in the honor of those who haven’t survived either end of the gun that I do this work.”

For more information about the performances, contact Kore Press at (520)-327-2127 or

More About Coming in Hot

The creative collaborative for Coming in Hot: Lisa Bowden (director, producer, writer), Vicki Brown (sound artist/musician), Shannon Cain (writer), Jamie A. Lee (filmmaker), Kaylene Torregrossa (production manager), Jeanmarie Simpson (actor/writer), Beth Weinstein (set & light design).

These women in these stories have seen conflicts from Somalia to Vietnam to Desert Shield. They were air traffic controllers, medics, Arabic linguists, sonar technicians and interrogators. The work is inspired by a photo album of the enemy dead; heat exhaustion on an afternoon in Mosul; fending off advances from Iraqi men; an attempted rape by a Navy SEAL; contemplation of suicide; and a spiritual meditation on preparing the bodies of fallen comrades for burial.

What people are saying:

Why is there no national debate on the fact that women are subject to institutional discrimination in the US Military? Nowhere else in this country are women so blatantly prohibited from certain jobs solely on the basis of gender. The American public should know what military women have achieved, what they have gone through, and what issues they face. Powder contributor Charlotte Brock

American military history as it hasn’t been glimpsed before—through the eyes of creative women who have served.—Sara Corbett, The New York Times Magazine

While soldier stories hold a hallowed place in media and literature, the voices of the women who serve are often subdued or drowned out altogether[...] [This] is an insider's look at what it's really like to be a servicewoman. —Andrea Millar, Curve magazine

The writings here are rich . . . the authors are sharp thinkers and strong soldiers; they are also tired, angry, & conflicted.—Bitch magazine

"Coming in Hot is a stunning collection of stories told in an array of voices, each with its own unique perspective on the topic of war. The stories—emotional, thoughtful and compelling—would be impressive in any context, but are made even more so by the fact that they come from those long-overlooked heroes—the women of the American military. In that vein, I think you should run to see this show; not simply because you'd enjoy it, but because it's your duty."—Jeremy Cole, Director and Amnesty International Activist, San Francisco

Women soldiers are a complex subject; these explorations can only broaden the conversation and deepen our understanding.—Peggy Bailey Doogan, painter, Tucson

About Kore Press

Kore Press is a non-profit literary arts organization in Tucson and one of the six remaining feminist presses in the US. Kore has been publishing the creative genius of women writers since 1993, in part to maintain equitable public discourse and to strike a balance in our historic literary record. Greek for "daughter," Kore (kor-ay) recalls the myth of Persephone—the story of a daughter taken into the underworld who re-emerges above ground half the year because of a bargain struck between her mother and the nasty fellow who runs the place down below. It is the daughter's return to the surface each year that marks the change in season. As a community of literary activists devoted to bringing forth a diversity of voices through works that meet the highest artistic standards, Kore Press publishes women's writing that deepens awareness and advances progressive social change.