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'AFTERSHOCK/La Réplica' Explores The Latinx Military Experience

The new play AFTERSHOCK/La Réplica aims to give a voice to military veterans and their family members. That’s a natural choice of subject matter for Johnny Meyer and Karen Alvarado, the married co-creators of the piece – he’s a military veteran and she’s the wife of a veteran. AFTERSHOCK/La Réplica draws from their own experiences to an extent, but is largely based on the writings of other U.S. veterans. 

“We took oral histories, letters, [and] things that people wrote specifically for this,” says Meyer. “We took these and got their permission to sort through them and see what kinds of themes were coming out of it, what sort of stories were being told… as people were coming back from war.”

The play is about experience but also about memory and how memories can change and evolve in the aftermath of life-changing experiences. Meyer says that as he and Alvarado created the piece, they were focused on the common themes in the veterans’ remembrances. “What was reverberating for them, and what were they carrying with them throughout their lives?” he recalls asking himself during the writing process, adding, “As a veteran myself, I know that the way some of those memories work is that… you kind of see it again and again and its meaning changes for you over time.”

Alvarado describes the play as “a collage piece of military experiences, specifically Latinx military experiences.” She says that one of the goals of AFTERSHOCK/La Réplica is to present a more realistic view of the military experience than is often shown in pop culture. “So many Hollywood stories take the most traumatic moment of a veteran’s experience, and we’re kind of looking a little bit deeper at the day-to-day veteran experience and how… trauma can happen at different times for people and it’s not always what you think it is.”

“You do this stuff early in your life, and then for the rest of your life, it’s going to be there,” Meyer says. “And it’s going to shape the way you see everything. It comes up in your mind at strange moments.”

“One thing that was important to me was to both fully experience these events and then [also] distill them and abstract them,” Alvarado says. “So there’s quite a bit of realism but… we [also] have characters that are very familiar to the Latinx community, like the Virgen de Guadalupe. So it’s kind of a collage of all of these characters and all of these memories in your head all intermixing and swirling around together, and how do you move forward with all of this in your head?”

“And the scenes repeat themselves, sometimes incorrectly,” Meyer adds. “You can’t be sure which one is the most accurate version of the scene that you’re watching, because the people think about it differently and so it happens in a different way.”

AFTERSHOCK/La Réplica deals with very serious subject matter, but also incorporates some of the day-to-day humor that occurs in any situation, even military deployment, Meyer says. “It’s got a sense of humor. We’re very frank about what happens. I hope people appreciate the straightforward nature of it, the sort of openness of the play.”

“If there’s something I wanted people to walk away with… [it’s] for people to acknowledge that the Latinx community are soldiers, and they are American soldiers, just like any other soldier. And that the Latinx community, it’s a complex community, and that war adds to the complexity.”

“Yeah, veterans don’t have to fit your ideal type,” Meyer adds. “The life is complicated. War is complicated. And I hope that people appreciate the challenges that that community faces.”

'AFTERSHOCK/La Réplica' is presented by Thinkery & Verse in partnership with Teatro Vivo and runs November 14 - 24 at the Mexican-American Cultural Center

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