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Marine’s combat journal scripted, staged

‘Fallujah Good’ play to be presented at American Legion

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POSTED: October 3, 2011 9:44 a.m.
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Actor Benjamin Mathes will perform a one-man play called “Fallujah Good” on Oct. 5 at the Fred L. Ginter American Legion Post # 168. The play is based on his brother’s experiences as a Marine during the first battle of Fallujah.

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One man’s combat journal kept during the first battle of Fallujah has become his brother’s theatrical mission.

Former U.S. Marine Adam Mathes, 30, kept a detailed account of his wartime experiences early in the Iraq War. Actor Benjamin Mathes, 32, arranged his younger brother’s diary entries and email correspondence into a gritty one-man play called "Fallujah Good" that offers an unvarnished portrait of modern war.

The Savannah Community Theatre production will be presented from 8-10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, at the Fred L. Ginter American Legion Post # 168 off Highway 84 in Hinesville. Admission is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. The play, because of its serious theme, is targeted for audience members ages 16 and older, according to SCT Director Tom Coleman.

"We’ve seen so much of (war) on TV and that’s a reporter’s view," Post Commander Roy Owens said. "I think we’ll get some firsthand (information) in this play."

Benjamin Mathes said he was a working actor in New York City when his brother, then a 23-year-old Marine second lieutenant, deployed to Iraq for the first time. The actor said he took his brother’s journal and emailed letters and made it into a one-man show in 2007.

"So it’s all his words," Benjamin Mathes said. "I’ve just arranged it for the stage. It’s my way of serving my country as an actor by telling his story. It’s war; it’s not a clean play."

Mathes has performed the show for veterans who served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. He said it is his way of thanking service members for their sacrifices without expressing any particular political views.

"I don’t think you realize the stress they’ve been under until they get back. ... It’s a unique stress," the actor said. "Like anything, you just keep going and then you look back and you say, ‘Wow, that was a lot.’"

"For me, it put into question what I do," Mathes continued. "It made me question why I’m an actor when my brother is a Marine."

Adam Mathes served as platoon commander for 1st Platoon, Kilo Company, Third Battalion, 1st Marines (K3/1) in April 2004. He deployed to Iraq twice more, each tour lasting seven months. Mathes resigned from active duty in February 2008.

"I kept a detailed journal of the first deployment in an attempt to reflect on, understand and appropriate the very challenging and foreign circumstances in which I was engaged," he said. "The journal was solely a tool I used in my search for meaning throughout these difficult experiences. In any leadership position, the leader is often not granted the space to voice his or her concerns or deepest thoughts."

Mathes said he kept a journal because he needed to write.

"Writing kept my thoughts in order, my feelings in check and my head in the game," he said.

Mathes also shared his thoughts via email with family members, even though gaining access to a computer with Internet connectivity often was difficult.

"We were restricted to 20 minutes of Internet time," he recalled. "(So), I pre-composed my emails, then uploaded them into the email to send to friends and family. This was just a way for me to stay in touch with family and let them know what was really going on, apart from the hype and sensationalism of the 24-hour news current."

Adam Mathes is now out of the military and a third-year student pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree from Emory’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta.

"I served the better part of my first year at school as the company commander of a Reserve unit in South Carolina, but soon after I applied for the Navy’s Chaplain Candidate Program and was unable to continue to serve as a Marine as a result," Mathes said. "Since then, my responsibilities in uniform are minute and infrequent. I am also presently appointed by the United Methodist Church to serve as a part-time local pastor for two small churches in the north Georgia mountain town of Ellijay."

The veteran’s actor brother, Benjamin Mathes, trained at the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University and earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting at the University of California, Irvine.

He has had leading roles in off-Broadway classical theater, regional theater, soap operas, network television and film, working with such artists as Andy Garcia, Alan Arkin, John Witherspoon and Chris Rock.

Mathes also has taught acting and voice at the University of California, Irvine, and the University of San Diego.

He has taken "Fallujah Good" on the road, performing in California, New York City and across the Southeast. He currently is based in Los Angeles, Calif.

For more information, call 912-247-4644 or go to www.savannahcommunitytheatre.com.

 

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