Over nearly 40 years, Simpson has built a unique career by exploring society’s ills with the inquisitiveness of a reporter, the diligence of a playwright and the compassion of an actor. Her acclaimed piece, A Single Woman, examined the life of first US Congresswoman and lifelong pacifist, Jeannette Rankin. She read every existing biography, interviewed dozens of people, then theatrically reconstructed key moments of Rankin’s life onstage. A Single Woman was commissioned by the California Stage in Sacramento and played for 263 performances in venues all over the globe, including a run at the celebrated Culture Project, Off-Broadway.
While attending a December 2008 meeting of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom's Tucson branch, Simpson met Shannon Cain, co-editor of the anthology Powder: writing by women in the ranks from Vietnam to Iraq. The two quickly agreed that the book would make a terrific theatre piece, and Coming In Hot was conceived. Following a nine-month adaptation and rehearsal period directed by Kore Press publisher and fellow adaptor Lisa Bowden, the play opened at Tucson's Rhythm Industry Performance Factory in September of 2009.
While the book tells dozens of stories, Coming In Hot tells 15 and runs a tight 70 minutes. Each performance is followed by a discussion.
“We’re trying to bring together adversarial groups and engage them in civil discourse, so they can hear each other, perhaps understand in new ways ” Simpson says.
Pro-war veterans and staunch Republican military supporters sit side-by-side with Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, Women’s Studies professors and majors, Rhetoric grad students and teenagers confused about post-graduation options.
“We have seen the play’s potency in action,” Simpson says. “High school kids approach us after a show and tell us they were thinking about joining up but now are going to do something else. Vets thank us for speaking for women in specifics they've never seen illuminated, active military who have yet more deployments in front of them approach us red-eyed and speechless, just grateful.”
The women represented in the play all speak about their experiences while in the military. Some have endured years of sexual harassment. Some have seen death and destruction in the countries they have occupied as soldiers. Others have left their children behind, been degraded by sexist military edicts and the heartbreak of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. Some have been raped by their military colleagues.
"One young woman just threw her arms around me and cried,” Simpson recalls. “We didn't need to speak. All the words had been said. Just to be given a voice made all the difference to her and so many of her sisters and brothers.”
While telling the emotionally charged stories, Simpson never overtly deals with the politics of the current debate. But she knows the show gets people thinking intensely.
"It's not just policy, it's not just politics," Simpson says. "These are lives at stake; our lives, our children’s lives and their children’s. It’s about how we're going to survive as a people in this world.”
Coming In Hot adapted for the stage by Lisa Bowden, Shannon Cain and Jeanmarie Simpson. Based on the book, Powder: writing by women in the ranks from Vietnam to Iraq, Kore Press, 2009.
Lisa Bowden, producer/director
Vicki Brown, composer/sound artist/musician
Jeanmarie Simpson, actor
Coming In Hot will tour the United States, Toronto and Europe beginning September 7 in Tucson with the goal of culminating with a performance mid-November of 2011 in Krakow, Poland.
To view artist biographies, tour schedule, photo gallery, testimonials and more, visit korepress.org.
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Coming In Hot, a solo performance based on the book Powder: writing by women in the ranks from Vietnam to Iraq.
International tour begins September 7th in Tucson, Arizona and ends November 2011 in Krakow, Poland.