Short film based on the play “War Words” and created in partnership with Arena Stage will air November 11

Washington, DC — November 4, 2020 — The Atlantic Council, one of the nation’s most prominent international affairs think tanks, will host a virtual premiere screening of VETERANS DAY 2020, a cinematic celebration of military service, on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 at 4:30pm EST. This short film is adapted from the Atlantic Council’s stage play “War Words” and developed in partnership with Washington, DC’s Tony Award-winning theatre Arena Stage.

Written by the playwright Michelle Kholos Brooks and directed by Arena Stage’s deputy artistic director, Seema Sueko, VETERANS DAY 2020 tells the funny, strange, heroic, and heartbreaking stories of men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, based on the playwright’s interviews with veterans of those wars and their families. Introduced by Atlantic Council Executive Vice Chair Adrienne Arsht—a leading impact philanthropist and business leader—and featuring keynote remarks from General David Petraeus, VETERANS DAY 2020 marks the launch of the Council’s campaign to promote a Veterans Day tradition of bringing staged readings of “War Words” to communities across the country.

VETERANS DAY 2020 is a richly entertaining work that also serves the civic purpose of drawing the audience into a closer relationship with the men and women who serve in the military. Petraeus has commended how well the script “captures powerfully the experiences of those who have served in uniform . . . [and] conveys vividly the intensity of [their] relationships.”

But for the determined work of its creative team, VETERANS DAY 2020 might have been added to the long list of performances darkened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Council originally had planned to launch its Veterans Day tradition with a live, on-stage reading. Then, inspired by Arena Stage’s initiative to sustain its artists and audience through the pandemic using theatrically-driven films addressing the year’s most pressing issues, the Council commissioned the theatre to adapt “War Words” into a short film. Working in collaboration with Brooks, who wrote the adaptation, Sueko’s film achieves a succinct rendering of the play’s essence and in a form that itself is a heartening testament to the resilience of creative minds.

In addition to reflecting Sueko’s vision to use Zoom as her soundstage, the film’s unique form shows off the virtual multimedia designs of Jared Mezzocchi and enjoys a sound design with original music by Andre Pluess. Casting director Teresa Sapien’s perfect ensemble—Shaun Baker, Jacqueline Correa, Angel Desai, Justin Emeka, Brian Lee Huynh, Alyssa Keegan, Thomas Keegan, Brian Letscher, and Ramón De Ocampo—brings to full life the hard and heartfelt war words of the film’s compelling characters.

Hosted by the Atlantic Council’s new Forward Defense practice area, this event demonstrates the Council’s commitment to using the arts to inform key issues of public policy and promote engagement in those issues from thoughtful audiences. It is the latest example of an initiative within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security to engage artists with practitioners in pursuit of novel insights on international security.

To attend the virtual premiere of VETERANS DAY 2020, please register here. For media inquiries, contact Executive Producer Steve Grundman at


The Atlantic Council promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the Atlantic Community’s central role in meeting global challenges. The Council provides an essential forum for navigating the dramatic economic and political changes defining the twenty-first century by informing and galvanizing its uniquely influential network of global leaders. The Atlantic Council—through the papers it publishes, the ideas it generates, the future leaders it develops, and the communities it builds—shapes policy choices and strategies to create a more free, secure, and prosperous world.


Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Director Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacts the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its seventh decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000.

Related Experts: Adrienne Arsht, Michelle Kholos Brooks, and Steven Grundman