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Ratatat’s ‘Happy Few’ Weaves Veterans’ Stories With ‘Henry V’

Ratatat Theater Group, a Santa Barbara theater company dedicated to telling locally grounded stories that build our community, is premiering a new play in November called Happy Few, which combines the first-person accounts of Santa Barbara veterans with the story of William Shakespeare’s Henry V.

Our performances are presented in partnership with the Santa Barbara Public Library’s “Big Read” series, the Veterans Coordinating Council of Santa Barbara and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center at UCSB.

The performances present an opportunity to celebrate and engage with Veterans Day, explore the history of Europe and America and its personal effects on the lives of veterans, and engage with deep questions of purpose, patriotism and what is worth fighting for in life.

Performances will be:

» Friday, Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Public Library at 40 E. Anapamu St.; free to the public
» Saturday, Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Public Library at 40 E. Anapamu St.; free to the public
» Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall at 1745 Mission Drive; free to the public
» Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Veterans Building, 112 W. Cabrillo Blvd.; pay what you will, suggested donation $10
» Friday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Veterans Building, 112 W. Cabrillo Blvd.; pay what you will, suggested donation $10
» Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at UCSB in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building’s McCune Conference Room, Room No. 6020; free to the public
» Friday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara's Parish Hall, 1535 Santa Barbara St; admission $10
» Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara's Parish Hall, 1535 Santa Barbara St.; admission $10

Click here for more information, reservations, etc.

What’s It All About?

Happy Few tracks the path of war, from the early days of uncertainty and excitement, to the battlefield where men and women are beaten down and rise up, to the journey home, where people try figure out what it all meant, and try to find peace. It tracks this path with two guides: first, a classic representation of war — Shakespeare’s Henry V — and second, the personal stories of veterans from Santa Barbara.

We found in Henry V a play that can make us shiver with its vision of honor, glorious sacrifice, a “band of brothers” that “shall be remembered.” The play speaks to some of the deepest longings of our souls. And yet, the “happy few” of the play fight a war that is essentially futile — a squabble for land and power, and their victory is reversed only a few years later. So what was the meaning of their struggle?

We conducted interviews over a period of months with Santa Barbara veterans who fought in World War II, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other places and times, and found that though the specifics were different, many things were the same. Nearly everyone spoke of their pride in the ideal of the military, of the principles of sacrifice and brotherhood that it represents; but everyone had also seen that ideal cause pain, and struggled with that pain.

So we mixed these stories together to make a new play, in which classic characters from our literary past mingle with the personal stories from our neighbors’ lives. The play wrestles with some of our deepest yearnings — for a leader, for a cause, for something to believe in — yearnings that are very old and always new. We hope through the play to help us all understand a little better our war to resolve those yearnings, and how to fight it, in our hearts and in our world.

About Ratatat Theater Group

Ratatat Theater Group is a Santa Barbara theater company dedicated to innovative, community-oriented original work. Its first play, Cuts, a docu-musical comedy about hair, premiered in 2008. More recent projects include Body/Bach-Min/Max, which premiered at the Lit Moon Fringe Festival and was dubbed "a triumph of creative expression in all its giddy glory" (Santa Barbara Independent); Roses, which participated in the Company Creation Festival in Los Angeles in February; and Laws of Motion, a one-man play about physics, faith and the motion of life, presented in partnership with Westmont College.

Happy Few is presented in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, the Santa Barbara Public Library, with funding from Friends of the Santa Barbara Public Library, the Veterans Coordinating Council of Santa Barbara, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center at UCSB and Noozhawk.com, our premier media sponsor.

— Casey Caldwell is the artistic director for Ratatat Theater Group.

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