Sunday, January 17, 2010

Arts Reporting: Statesman Backgrounder on Johnny Meyer and 'American Volunteers' (FronteraFest Long Fringe)

UPDATE: Review by Dan Solomon at, February 1

UPDATE: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin's review of American volunteers at the Statesman Austin360 "Seeing Things" arts blog, January 22

UPDATE: Statesman's video interview of Johnny Meyer, January 17

The Statesman's arts editor Jeanne Claire van Ryzin does a backgrounder on Johnny Meyer and American Volunteers, published January 16:


Conflict doesn't end at the Afghan border in new play
by Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
American-Statesman arts writer

[. . . .] Meyer, 27, is a former Army Airborne Ranger and staff sergeant, a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. "American Volunteers," adapted from Meyer's unpublished novel of the same name, charts the personal and military lives of an isolated squad patrolling the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Meyer focused the action on the three men responsible for leading the squad and the conflict that arises as each pursues the most basic of American values.

Meyer chooses his words carefully when talking about the war. And his tone darkens.

His play is not about his politics, he says, nor about politics in general nor even about his personal experience, though he did serve on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The urgency of combat exposes the basest of human reactions, he says, and that was where he found his story. And that story was about the inherent conflict that erupts when the goals of a foreign war clash with American values.

"What happens when soldiers, even though they are volunteers, try to live out certain very American values — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — above the orders they receive?" he asks. "There are questions, larger questions, there that are worth looking at, I think."

(click to view full article at

[Statesman photo by Deborah Cannon]

FronteraFest Listing
City On a Hill? Productions – American Volunteers by John M. Meyers (90 minutes)

American Volunteers follows a squad of special operations Rangers as they patrol the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The play focuses on three sergeants responsible for leading the squad, and the conflict that arises as each pursues life, liberty or happiness. The story is told through the bifocal perspective of a female soldier briefly attached to the squad, and a metamorphic Chorus. Warning: Strong language, violence, and meter.

Tickets: $8, Blue Theatre, 911 Springdale Road
Tue. 1/19 9:15 p.m. Thur. 1/21 7 p.m. Sat. 1/23 9:45 p.m. Sat. 1/30 12 p.m.

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