Blake Pyne and Jayden Lane

Blake Pyne and Jayden Lane

Peace Keepers tallies the cost paid by veterans

Students from G.W. Graham will perform, Peace Keepers, the story of Chilliwack veterans who served in war-torn countries in the 1990s

There probably won’t be a dry eye in the house.

A cast of students from G.W. Graham middle-secondary is set to perform, Peace Keepers, the story of local veterans who served in war-torn countries in the 1990s written by drama teacher Damon Fultz.

It promises to be the most heart-wrenching of the original scripts written by Fultz for the Remembrance Project.

Student actor Alycia Duncan, 17, said being involved with the theatrical project has been “completely mind-blowing” for the past two years.

“The act of remembering what these people went through made me more aware of how grateful I am for the life that I have because others made sacrifices.

“They all had families, brothers, sisters, wives and children, but they left them all behind for the greater good.

“It’s inspiring because it shows that people can be unselfish and community minded.”

Rehearsals on the school stage are one thing, says Duncan.

But when the 10-member cast of high school students performs those impassioned scenes, plucked from the veterans’ own experiences, in the Masonic Hall for the veterans — everyone just loses it.

“Everyone has a meltdown and ends up crying. The atmosphere in the room is incredible. It’s like everyone is really present in the moment, as we show the veterans that we will remember.”

The focus on Canadian Peacekeepers in the third script brings a more modern approach, that resonates even deeper for the students actors, said Duncan.

“The peacekeeping veterans are here among us today. We can relate to the world views of the 1990s more than we could the opinions and views they had during the World War I and World War II,” she said. “So that made their experiences even more real for us.”

Brittany Clough, 17, says she still cries every time she does a run-through.

“It’s awesome to be able to portray what others went through in this way.”

Most of what she now knows about Canada’s role in peacekeeping missions she’s learned from the project, and getting inside her character’s experiences.

She plays a woman whose big brother is killed in battle, and she expresses the pain of that loss.

“I have a big brother, so I can imagine how that would feel.”

It’s been educational.

“I think it sticks with you more when you learn it this way.”

For student actor Faron Giltaca, it’s been nothing short of “life-changing” to perform the Remembrance Project scripts two years running.

“It’s not just learning lines, but getting into the mindset of the person you’re portraying, who is completing their service because they have to. It can be very emotional.”

That’s why he’s happy his character allows him to bring a little levity to the play, as some who served in Cyprus in the 1970s, and has an officers’ latrine blown up by a mortar.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” he says.

The Remembrance Project is the culmination of a decade of intense research and interviews with veterans after Fultz found himself disappointed after attending a “vapid and irrelevant” Remembrance Day ceremony back in 2001.

The veterans deserved better, he thought at the time. That’s when the seeds of the The Remembrance Project were planted.

“It’s been an interesting project and a really cool journey,” said Fultz.

More than 50 schools have now performed the emotion-laden scripts, and he’s had an “avalanche” of requests.

But Peace Keepers is the final and “by far the most difficult script” in both acting challenge and content, said Fultz.

“In this play we look at not only the veterans’ experiences in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Cyprus, but the cost these veterans and their families continue to pay today,” he said.

The performances this year will begin on Oct. 26 at the Masonic Hall, 45905 Hocking Road, for members of the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society. The public is invited to the performance of Peace Keepers on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at the GW Graham Theatre at 7 p.m. Admission is by donation with all proceeds going to the Royal Canadian Legion.

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