We’d like to introduce Artem Yatsunov. Artem has taken on the project of combining Joshua’s play Returns and his book “Letters from Abu Ghraib” into a new production/workshop. This new production is currently being developed and we will keep this site and our supporters updated prior to its release. Below is a little more about Artem and this project in his own words.
Artem Yatsunov is a Ukrainian-born, Jersey-raised, Brooklyn-based theatre director, storyteller and educator. He has been developing new work and creating theatrical experiences around the country for over 10 years, bringing live shows to both theatre fans and people who “mistakenly think they don’t like plays.” Artem’s work has recently been presented by The PUBLIC Theater’s 2018 Under The Radar Festival, The Performing Garage, and The Oye Group.
Artem on connecting/reconnecting with Joshua Casteel
“I had the luck and the pleasure to meet Joshua Casteel during the early developments of his play Returns between ‘06-’08. Serving as Assistant Director for David Gothard, Returns was presented by The McCarter Theater at Princeton University in NJ and then we were invited to perform at the Martin E. Segal Center in NY. Joshua’s personality, words and commitment to spreading humanity and to uplifting the dignity of every human being deeply touched me and remains a vital source of inspiration for me to this day.
For this new project Returns: Letters From Abu Ghraib, I will be bringing Joshua’s letters and correspondences from Abu Ghraib, taken from his book Letter From Abu Ghraib, to theatrical life alongside his short play Returns. Returns is visceral, brutal, honest and woe-fully tragic; it offers a glimpse as veterans as wholesome human beings – fraught and fragile, resilient and relentless. The letters are at once timeless and forever crystallized in the amber of modern American history. Anyone witnessing the letters cannot help but be thrown back to the early 2000’s in the USA when morality, faith, and patriotism were so candidly tested in the post-9/11 call to arms for a ‘just’ “war on terror”. Letters give us a non-fiction insight into the mind and heart of Joshua as a soldier on the front lines, experiencing and witnessing the daily ravages of violence as well as witnessing and absorbing the testimonies of Iraqi people living under the constant threat of total annihilation. The Letters give a chronology of Joshua’s struggle to reconcile his faith with his duties as interrogator and offer a window into what inspired the short-play Returns. The play itself dramatizes the trauma experienced by Joshua and his fellow soldiers while in Iraq and the difficulty reintegrating back into civilian life and their American culture.
Eloquent, poetic, captured with uncanny clarity and empathy, Joshua’s Letters of his time as Interrogator juxtaposed with his fictionalized account of the after-math – of ‘what’ or ‘who’ Returns from the war – will be a new theater production that is equal parts biographical and fantastical, both the truth and that which is stranger-then-fiction. Returns: Letters From Abu Ghraib is a new work of documentary theater exposing the humanity and the calamity of fighting a ‘just’ war and the human toll on both combatant and the targeted, on foreign soil and back home. Along with Kristi Casteel and the Joshua Casteel Foundation, we are building the production to serve as a conversation starter on healing and reconciliation, with the goal to tour across the theater and universities and to engage with veteran, faith and immigrant communities here in the states and abroad.