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BENT COMPASS by Neil Brookshire & Colin Sesek to be Presented at Cincy Fringe

As in-person performances continue to return, Brookshire and Sesek plan to bring Bent Compass to audiences around the country.

BENT COMPASS by Neil Brookshire & Colin Sesek to be Presented at Cincy Fringe

Bent Compass, a solo show written by actor Neil Brookshire and combat medic Colin Sesek, is part of the Primary Line-Up at Cincy Fringe this June.

Brookshire and Sesek met while working for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in 2004, the summer before Sesek joined the Army. Brookshire remembers Sesek bringing samples of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) to the dressing room.

They stayed in touch during Sesek's deployments to Iraq in 06-07, and later Afghanistan. But it wasn't until 2013, again connected with Shakespeare, that an idea to collaborate on a new play entered their minds. Brookshire says, "I was fleshing out the background of a character who returns from combat in Much Ado About Nothing, and I thought who better to talk to than Colin. He's done exactly that. Listening to his perspective helped me anchor my performance. And the more we talked, the more I wanted to explore creating a project based solely on his experiences."

Sesek and Brookshire, who live in Idaho and Wisconsin, agreed to record weekly phone conversations resulting in over six hours of stories. Brookshire then began the slow process of transcribing the material, and gradually, the form of the project revealed itself: a monologue play exploring how war shifts a person's concept of normal. Sesek says, "We wanted it to be as honest as possible, to get at what it's really like." To achieve accuracy, Brookshire and Sesek used the transcriptions as the text, editing only for flow. "The words in the play are Colin's, so audiences are hearing his stories in the same way I initially heard them," says Brookshire. They focused the story on Sesek's journey from being a fresh recruit to a seasoned veteran, how combat shaped his thinking and perspective of the world and his life since.

Early iterations of the play include a reading at the Community Library in Ketchum, Idaho, and a self-produced live audio broadcast on Memorial Day from Brookshire's home in Wisconsin during COVID lockdown.

The reading caught the ear of Kelli Strickland, Artistic and Executive Director of the Weidner Center, associated with the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay. Strickland facilitated funding and resources to get Bent Compass on its feet. Brookshire contacted friend and actor Phil Darius Wallace, who has been writing and performing solo shows for two decades, to direct the play. The efforts culminated in a multi-camera recording in February of 2021.

Audiences responded well to the virtual offering, in particular, those who have lived through similar experiences. "That's the best we could have hoped for," Sesek says, "to have it resonate with combat veterans. That's the goal."

As in-person performances continue to return, Brookshire and Sesek plan to bring Bent Compass to audiences around the country.


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