Those who serve to be honored with play, exhibit

Date: 5/12/2009

SPRINGFIELD - In honor of military veterans and active duty military personnel, Springfield Armory National Historic Site is hosting the play "Silent Men Speaking" and the exhibit "100 Faces of War Experience."

On May 16 at 7 p.m. and May 17 at 2 p.m. the dramatic and moving play will be performed in the Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) Scibelli Hall theatre. It is handicap accessible and no tickets are required. The "100 Faces of War Experience" portrait exhibit is on display and available for viewing in the Springfield Armory National Historic Site's Visitor Center and Museum from now through June 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

"Silent Men Speaking" is a dramatic theatre and dance presentation based on oral histories of Vietnam veterans. It is created, choreographed, directed and performed by Carl Thomsen, a professional actor and choreographer who has performed in China, New York City and New England. Shera Cohen of "In the Spotlight," who is responsible for bringing the play to the area, commented, "Thomsen's stories of veterans David Bianchini, Allen Gaskell and Robert Vinson are hard hitting and honest chronicles of the effects of the Vietnam War, both during and after the conflagrations. The play's goal is to put a human face on war, its sacrifices and consequences, yet with an apolitical tone."

Play performances are sponsored by In the Spotlight, Springfield Armory National Historic Site, Friends of the Springfield Armory Museum, STCC and a grant from the Springfield Cultural Council.

The "100 Faces of War Experience" portrait art exhibit takes 12 powerful portraits to consider and human and spiritual impacts of war and depict men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Printed statements and stories written by the exhibit's veterans and civilian aid workers and contractors are an integral part of the display. The portraits and stories tackle the myriad aspects of war patriotism, despair and a variety of deeply-held personal convictions forged on the battlefield.

"The exhibit and events we've planned get beyond the language of psychology we often use when we talk about war and the challenges veterans face on coming home. In addition to offering us new understandings of war and return, the collection of paintings and stories provide a monument to the American experience of these wars," stated the artist, Matt Mitchell.

The "100 Faces of War Experience" is a non-profit project created by Mitchell and sponsored by the Amherst-based Veterans Education Project (VEP). The artist plans to paint veterans native to all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. He has completed 30 of the portraits. VEP was founded in 1982 by Vietnam veterans and trains military veterans to share their stories of war and military service in schools and public venues throughout the Pioneer Valley. The project was paid for in part by a Massachusetts Humanities grant.

We invite the public to see the play and tour the exhibit to learn more about what the men and women of our Armed Forces experience and how it can affect them in the service of their country. It is our hope that through these plays, the exhibit and the associated talk back sessions and presentations we will help to educate the public about what we should be aware of and how we can help our serving troops and returning veterans as a means of honoring their service and the sacrifices made for our country.

Springfield Armory NHS was the site of Shays' Rebellion in 1787. In 1795, General Washington chose the site as our first National Armory. Enjoy its history and beauty. The Armory Visitor Center and Museum and grounds are open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is free. For more information, visit or call 734-8551.