Ohio State theater presents adaptation of first-person stories from World War I

April 6, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the United States' official entry into World War I. This date falls in the midst of the run of “Forbidden Zones: The Great War” by the Ohio State University Department of Theatre. This new work, conceived and directed by OSU theatre professor Lesley Ferris, is verbatim theater, using first-person accounts (letters, books and other archives) as well as art and music to tell the story of people at the heart of the conflict – the heiress who built and operated a hospital for the French military, the doctor using new Freudian techniques to treat combatants facing shell shock, two deserting soldiers, an African-American nurse and more.

“Forbidden Zones” provides touchpoints to the actual lives of those most intimately impacted by the war. “There are multiple narratives,” Ferris said. “It's like a wonderful, multi-colored quilt that zeros in on a panel and then pulls out.”

The play does provide some broader, big-picture inspection, as well. “One of the themes is questioning just what war is, and why do we do this,” Ferris said. “There was a lot of that in the material that we looked at. It sort of arose naturally, and we didn't want to ignore it.”