Friday, November 14, 2008

War Stories: Joyce Guy Interview

Our blog contributor Daood interviews Joyce Guy, who helms the one-woman show War Stories coming to the NEW LATC (Los Angeles Theatre Center) Fridays-Sundays starting November 14th-23rd. Learn more about this show through the actress herself in this exclusive interview!

Daood: Greetings Joyce Guy!

Joyce Guy: Hey Daood, how are you? Thank you for writing and for you interest in War Stories.

Daood: War Stories is written and also portrayed in this one-woman act by you. Exactly what is War Stories about and why was this subject matter endearing to a singlehanded breathtaking deliverance?

Joyce Guy: My father was a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force for 23 years. War Stories tells the story of his struggles in the military through my eyes. Simultaneously [it] also tells the story of my plight growing up in the military and feeling like an outsider in my own country. A third component of the play gives a biographical glimpse of other African-Americans who have served in the military protecting our country.

Daood: Initially War Stories was a stage reading. Transitioning to an actual play came as the result of what quest?

Joyce Guy: I started War Stories as a staged reading to receive feedback from the audience. The play goes on my family's actual journey from Taiwan to Florida to Japan to Kansas and Delaware, with a series of stories written in a rhythmic monologue style laced with haiku, poetry and biographical sketches.

From those staged readings the audience assisted me in making the journey cohesive and clear. Then this summer I was accepted into the LaMaMa Playwright's Retreat in Umbria, Italy. The retreat proved valuable because there I was able to transition the work into an actual play. Playwright Naomi Iizuka who facilitated the retreat gave instructive feedback but at the same time led the participants through a number of writing exercises that lead down the path to completing War Stories.

Daood: Racism, class differences, and the feeling of being an outsider in one's country has been written and talked about in various mediums, but what would you say is unique about this interpretation of your father's experience that impacts your portrayal?

Joyce Guy: [You're] right, these themes have been written about. What makes War Stories unique is that we haven't heard these themes approached from an African-American enlisted man's point of view as seen through the eyes of young African-American female.

When we hear stories of blacks in the military is usually from a male point-of-view, rarely through a female point-of-view. Or when we hear stories of the military it's from a white point-of-view. Rarely are the stories of the children of black children, which there are many, told in the various mediums. We hear of the heroes, but not the everyday soldier[s] who sacrifice their lives.

Daood: Not only have I read that your depiction is exhilarating, but can you elaborate on the various mediums demonstrative in capturing the essence of those moments and times during the play journey from experience to the next?

Joyce Guy: As in my previous work, I usually incorporate various mediums. War Stories has been the most realized. For the first time I have a live musician, a cellist, Peter Walden who also plays the harmonica, djembe drum and other elements. Being a dancer I always incorporate dance movement into my pieces, that's why I write in a rhythmic style with haiku poetry and passages from American Patriot: The History of Black in the Military written by Gail Buckley. We also utilize photographs and 35mm home movie footage taken by my father.

Daood: Psychologically, what preparation process is imperative for performing a role of this nature?

Joyce Guy: There's not a lot of psychological preparation need[ed] for performing. Most of the psychological preparation happened during the writing because I had to delve into those honest places I hadn't visited for a while. As I perform, my focus is on telling my story and not being afraid to go to the painful places. Since I've reconciled with my past, I've allowed myself to freely enter into those emotional places.

Daood: From a historical, socio-political and cultural standpoint, how significant is War Stories?

Joyce Guy: The inception of War Stories began after the United States invaded Iraq. To once again see the disproportion number of enlisted black and brown men and women going off to fight, this was my way of expressing my views on this travesty, by telling a personal story. War Stories is a reminder of the contribution African-Americans in the military have sacrificed in protecting our country throughout our history with far too little recognition. Now that the U.S. has elected the first African-American president, it is important now more than ever to reveal our true history, why and how we've reached this point. Without knowing, the presentation of War Stories came about at this monumental historical occasion when Americans question our country's intervention and when our troops will be back home.

Daood: Would you provide a phrase from the play that speaks to the triumph and dignity of your father?

Joyce Guy: would love to. "I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I loved the job. I like not having someone constantly looking over my shoulder. The Air Force told me I was in a frozen field. I had faith the system would change."

Daood: I’m honored that you've taken the time out to answer the questions and I will be attending the play!

Joyce Guy: Thank you so much for the interview. I really do appreciate it. I look forward to meeting you.

-Daood, Blog Contributor

Check out Joyce Guy in War Stories at the NEW LATC. For dates and showtimes, visit

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