Culturally diverse play brings streets of Baghdad to GV
Imagine being a soldier in the Iraq War. You’ve seen friends die, you don’t know who you can trust and now that your time is up you have to go back to the real world and try to pretend like none of it happened.
“An Identified Enemy” is the story of two American war veterans, Jamie Foster and his girlfriend Della, who have recently returned from Baghdad and are now struggling to pass psychology, along with their other classes, and separate the haunted memories of their past from reality.
Jamie Foster, played by Baschar Umran, refuses to move on with his life because he does not know what happened to his friend Jalil Khalifa Al-Majid, an Iraqi street vendor played by Navy veteran Ryan Jackson.
American soldiers arrested Jalil after a miscommunication, leaving Foster determined from that point on to find out what became of him. After all, the Iraqi man did save his life from an explosion that killed several members of his unit.
The play, which consisted of six performances between Nov. 9 and 17, was written by Grand Valley State University alumnus Max Bush and directed by Roger Ellis.
GVSU students played the parts of soldiers, Iraqi men and women, civilians, prison guards, translators and more. The students who acted as Iraqis not only looked the part, but also spoke with accents and mastered their Arabic lines.
“It was interesting to see how the actors grew in their roles from one week to the next,” Ellis said. “There were lots of improvements.”
Alcoholism, post-traumatic stress and comedy were all tied together in Bush’s representation of life after war.
“Max wrote my character very well,” Jackson said. “He really embodied and embraced the relationship that (Jalil) and Jamie formed.”
The story is very real and you never really know what ended up happening to Jalil or his family, Jackson said. It is a good issue for Americans to see, especially because it is so relevant to what is going on in the world today.
“Performances have gone really well,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately there haven’t been as many people as I would have liked, but we’ve gotten good responses from the people that did come.”
Video projections and translations were used to add an extra element to the show and give the audience a better understanding of what actually took place overseas. One in particular was an interview with a member of the Taliban who insisted that attacks on Americans were justifiable and done for their god, Allah.
“I was not familiar with the topic but I thought it was done very well and they did a good job intertwining it with the story,” Danielle Armstrong, a student in the audience, said.
Another audience member, Beth Clark, was at a loss for words after the show, but said she thought all of the performers did an awesome job.
Also among the crowd on Nov. 15 was the actual prison guard who was portrayed in the play, Ellis said. He had been interviewed by Bush on numerous occasions and came out to watch himself onstage.
“An Identified Enemy” was a very experimental way of telling one of the many personal stories about a Michigan soldier’s experience in the Iraq conflict, Ellis said.