Bent Compass

Bent Compass

Written by Neil Brookshire and Colin Sesek

Performed by Neil Brookshire

Directed by Phil Darius Wallace

Originally co-produced by The Weidner Center and Dirt Hills Productions

Graphic design by Troy Williams

Following the journey of an Army Medic from fresh recruit to seasoned combat veteran, the text of Bent Compass is taken from transcribed interviews detailing the effects of war on a personal level. The play begins with Colin, years after his deployment, as a student teacher who witnesses an event during one of his teaching assignments. Because of his combat experience, he sees the situation differently than the other teachers. At once personal, reflective, humorous, raw, and candid, this solo play honors a man whose unique perspective speaks to both veterans and non-combat civilians alike.

(This play contains explicit language and descriptions of violence.)

Next Performance:


(Please Note: This video contains graphic language and descriptions of violence.)


Colin and I met while working for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in 2004, the summer before Colin joined the Army. I remember him bringing in samples of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), and discussing his plans to become an Army Medic.

We stayed in touch throughout Colin’s various deployments, but it wasn’t until 2013 that an idea to create a play entered our minds. At the time, I was fleshing out the background of a character in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, one who was returning from combat. I thought, who better to talk to than Colin? Hearing his stories and perspective helped me anchor my performance, and the more we talked, the more we wanted to explore creating a project based solely on his experiences. Colin was incredibly generous and forthcoming with information and insight. It inspired me to continue exploring his story, his journey.

We recorded weekly phone conversations in an informal interview format. Once the initial recordings were made, written transcriptions and editing began. One of the challenges was articulating what was at the core of Colin’s experiences and perspectives in a clear way. In terms of story structure, we had a tremendous amount of raw material, but what linked everything together cohesively? And what was our format?

I was inspired by radio interviews of WWI survivors that I heard on the BBC. They were done when those people were much older, many in their eighties. The raw, candid, and simple storytelling nature of those recordings aligned with our goal: Colin said from the beginning that he wanted it to be as honest as possible, to get at what it’s really like.

The story arc is Colin’s journey from fresh recruit to seasoned combat veteran. It explores how war shaped his thinking and perspective on the world, and how his life has changed since. The text is almost entirely from transcriptions with the occasional quotes from Shakespeare. After all, that’s how we met. The result is a unique collaboration using the best of our skills and experience; he lived it, we wrote it, I perform it. And since we have been presenting our play live, we have found that it speaks to both civilians and veterans in different but rewarding ways.

community outreach

In addition to the virtual offering, The Weidner Center coordinated public discussions, facilitated by journalist John Maino (Author of FRONTLINES WORLD WAR II – Personal Accounts of Wisconsin Veterans). These discussions provided context for faculty members and staff of UWGB for addressing some of the unique challenges veterans face when returning to civilian life. This kind of community outreach is intrinsic to Bent Compass.

Production history

1/4/2020 – Ketchum, ID – The Community Library. First public reading

5/25/2020 – Memorial Day Live Audio Broadcast

2/24/2021 – Recorded Performance/Community Talkback. Produced by Kelli Strickland, Artistic/Executive Director of the Weidner Center, Green Bay, WI

6/4 – 6/9/2022 – Cincinnati, OH – Cincy Fringe Primary Line-up

9/2/2022 – Boise, ID – LED

11/9/2022 – Green Bay, WI – The Weidner Center

11/10/2022 – Marinette, WI – Theatre on the Bay, in association with the Weidner Center and UWGB

11/11/2022 – Green Bay, WI – The Tarlton Theatre, presented by Weidner Downtown

In the news

Courtesy of KIVITV
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