By Austin Kaiser
When boys turn eighteen in Finland, they must enlist in the military. “About Heroes” is about the fear of this obligation. It is the story of Juha, the performer and writer, and of Vilho, Juha’s grandfather, who was forced to fight in World War II. Juha embodies his younger self and travels back in time via a diary to act as his grandfather.
During World War II, Vilho became attached to the Bible his mother gave him, though he was not a person of faith. Why was his Bible so important? Because when he was seen with it, other soldiers assumed he was religious. This religious facade was crucial to cover up that he was gay. In this way, Vilho was an actor, as his grandson would eventually become. This is especially ironic because Vilho had an awful relationship with Christianity. As a boy, he was beaten at church in front of the congregation for innocuous, juvenile sins. His commanding officers told him Jesus would support the army because Finland held the moral high ground. “Why would I be interested in a religion so interested in violence?” Vilho wondered.
There were many suspenseful moments in which Vilho’s sexuality was nearly exposed. Vilho ultimately shoots himself in the foot to be dismissed from service, a decision that backfires. The story ends with Juha reflecting on the similarities between himself and his grandfather, and on his personal definition of heroism. Though his grandfather would be considered the opposite of a hero by many people’s standards, Juha suggests that definitions should conform to the reality of men, instead of the reality of men conforming to definitions. This is a profound idea, presented in a profound way.
I recommend this performance to anyone interested in military and coming-of-age stories with themes of sexuality and personal identity. The show was quite humorous at times, and reminded me of how wonderful a night out at the theater can be.
Written and Performed by Juha Sorola
Oct. 7 at 7:30pm, Nov. 5 at 6pm
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
AUSTIN KAISER is a writer with an expertise in art and the creative process. His writing is about improving your imagination and exercising your empathy muscle. Kaiser is currently writing a book called, “100 Questions Every Artist Should Have The Answers To.” His other book, “How To Go Viral & Put Wings On Ideas: A Book For Content Creators & Young Artists,” explains how ideas travel and which ideas travel best. More at www.medium.com/@KaiserMane.