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February 20, 2014

'Searing' ODU Theatre Arts Production Delves into Effects of Battlefield Horrors

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Old Dominion will launch its spring season of theater productions with "The Outsider," a depiction of one man's return home from World War II that confronts the emotional toll paid by surviving soldiers.

"The Outsider," which was the first radio play produced in Germany after World War II, tells the tale of a German soldier who returns home after being captured in Stalingrad and released from a Siberian concentration camp. He has dreamt of home, but returns to find that world no longer exists.

It has been described as a "searing, expressionistic masterpiece" and has particular relevance decades after its creation in the context of current armed conflicts that have produced significant numbers of soldiers challenged by the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The play was written by Wolfgang Borchert, a German playwright and short story writer who was drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1941. He was subsequently accused of self-mutilation and spent much of the war in jail. Borchert's body of work is best known for expressing the torment many German soldiers felt after World War II.

"The soldier Beckmann grasps for life in a world which only worships death," according to a description of the play. "As Borchert shouts, 'This is what we are. This is what we did, all of us ... we don't need poets with good grammar. We lack patience for good grammar. We need those with the hot feeling that's been sobbed hoarse.' Raw, edgy and often disturbing, this is a performance to be experienced."

Lee Smith, a guest artist in the Department of Communication and Theatre Arts, directs the ODU production.

"Our student audiences have almost no exposure to any of the Modernist movements since they're fed a diet that consists almost entirely of Realism," Smith said. "How can they think 'outside of the box' when all we ever show them is the box?"

The ODU play features a diverse cast of students from several university departments, including business administration, health sciences and biological sciences, along with theatre arts.

Performances of "The Outsider" will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26 through March 6 at the Goode Theatre, 4600 Monarch Way, in the University Village. There will also be a 2 p.m. performance on March 2; there will be no performance on March 3. Tickets are $15 for students and $20 for the general public.

To purchase tickets or for more information about the play, visit the ODU College of Arts and Letters ticket sales website or call 683-5305.