A War-wounded Woman Meets Myth in ‘Circular’
A female perspective on PTSD and the archetype of eternal war.
A play by Laura Allawyn Shamas, (2003 PhD Mythology Studies)
Interview by Roberta Alves/DC Metro Theater Arts
Spooky Action Theater’s livestreamed New Works in Action play-reading series continues Sunday, June 14, at 3 pm with Circular by Laura Shamas. Her heritage includes Chickasaw, English, French, Irish, Lebanese, and Scottish and who has an intense interest in mythology. “For me,” Shamas says in the interview that follows, “mythology is a roadmap to navigating the human condition in the contemporary world.”
In Circular, a young army psychiatrist becomes entangled in the world of The Odyssey on her first tour of duty in Afghanistan. On Circe’s island, this combat doctor and her commanding officer must face off against the known and unknown, modern and ancient monsters, determined to leave no one behind.
“With Circular,” the playwright says, “I’m trying to bring focus to a female perspective to the issue of PTSD, and the archetypal concept of eternal war.”
Roberta: When did you write Circular and where did the idea come from?
Laura: I wrote the first draft of Circular in February 2015 for a reading slot I had at the Lark Theater in New York. I started by wanting to reframe the way we think of Circe; the whole plot and psychological approach followed from there. I was especially interested in the theme of “The Wounded Healer.”
This play has already been performed on stage. Did you change anything since?
Yes, I revised the play a lot after the production last year. I even cut my favorite scene. Very eager to hear this version!
Do you believe that the psychological impact of war on veterans should be a theme more common in theater? Why?
Yes. The psychological impact of war on veterans is a very important topic: those who serve our country make enormous sacrifices. Often, veterans do not receive the care they need upon returning home, and plays that address this can help raise awareness, and hopefully contribute to collective action around how we should help our veterans. When Circular was produced last summer by AlterTheater in the Bay Area, I donated my royalties to the VA, in the names of the creative team, the cast, and the crew.
How do you connect this theme to The Odyssey?
With Circular, I’m trying to bring focus to a female perspective to the issue of PTSD, and the archetypal concept of eternal war. It’s connected to The Odyssey, for me, because you can see that patterns of certain characters, their behaviors, stories, and their hopes and desires are repeated today. You just have to know how to look for them. For me, mythology is a roadmap to navigating the human condition in the contemporary world.