The Atlantic Council’s War Words stage play is a work of documentary theatre that chronicles the funny, strange, heroic, and heartbreaking stories of men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. This Pulitzer-nominated stage play was written by award-winning playwright and Nonresident Senior Fellow Michelle Kholos Brooks based on her interviews with veterans of those wars and their families, and was produced by Senior Fellow Steven Grundman. A key pillar of Forward Defense’s Art of War work, War Words is compelling entertainment that also serves the civic purpose of drawing the audience into a closer relationship with the men and women who serve in the military.

Few movies or plays have ever captured for me as powerfully as War Words… the experiences of American veterans, especially those who have served in uniform since 9/11. Many of the reflections in it were not just familiar to me, they struck important chords with me as well.”

General David Petraeus, US Army (ret.)

War Words in 2021: A nationwide theatrical production

War Words humanizes professional warriors by telling their true stories in their own words, and the Council hopes it will enlarge the audience’s affinity with veterans and its attention to the uses of the military as an instrument of American policy. As the Council’s board director General David Petraeus observed in his endorsement of War Words, “If Americans’ appreciation of our warriors is fulsome but lacking in real affinity, we suffer a certain civic deficit which, among other adverse effects, can erode citizens’ engagement with the difficult problems and significant opportunities for which American leadership in the world is critically important.” To propagate this mission across the country, the Council has produced staged-reading performances of the play during the week of Veterans Day by professional theatre companies in six cities across the country:

War Words in Fort Worth

In association with: Stage West Theatre

When: November 10 and 11, 2021, at 6:30pm CT

Where: Stage West, 821 W. Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth

Sponsored by: Bell, Textron Systems, Elbit Systems of America

For tickets: https://www.stagewest.org/war-words

War Words in Los Angeles

A coproduction with: NewYorkRep West and the US Veterans’ Artists Alliance

In association with: The United States Veterans’ Artists Alliance

When: November 11, 2021, at 7:30pm PT

Where: The Actors’ Gang Theater Company, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, California

For tickets: https://www.newyorkrep.org/

War Words in Miami

In association with: City Theatre and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

When: November 10, 2021, at 8:00pm ET

Where: The Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, Florida

Sponsored by: The Boeing Company

For tickets: https://www.arshtcenter.org/Tickets/Calendar/2021-2022-Season/Arsht-Center-Presents/War-Words/

War Words in New York

A coproduction with: NewYorkRep

When: November 9, 2021, at 7:30pm ET

Where: The Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum, Pier 86, 12th Ave. & 46th Street, New York, New York

For tickets: https://www.newyorkrep.org/

War Words in Philadelphia

In association with: InterAct Theatre Company

When: November 11, 2021, at 7:30pm ET

Where: FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Blvd. (at Race St.), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sponsored by: Leonardo SpA

For tickets: https://www.interacttheatre.org/war-words

War Words in Syracuse

In association with: Syracuse Stage and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families

When: November 9, 2021, at 7:00pm ET

Where: Tan Auditorium, National Veterans Resource Center, 101 Waverly Ave., Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York

Sponsored by: Saab, Inc.

For tickets: https://www.syracusestage.org/warwords.php

Meet the playwright

Meet the project team

Past War Words activities

War Words in 2020: A short film adaptation

In 2020, the Atlantic Council commissioned Arena Stage to adapt War Words into a short film, VETERANS DAY 2020, marking 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. Read more about the short film, directed by Arena Stage’s Seema Sueko, here:

Event Recap

Jan 19, 2021

Veterans, war, and the arts: A 2020 celebration of military service

By Olivia Popp

VETERANS DAY 2020 joined the Atlantic Council’s creative energy with the nation’s celebration of veterans on this day of remembrance. Featuring welcome remarks by Adrienne Arsht and keynote remarks by General David Petraeus, this flagship event introduced a film adaptation of the stage play “War Words,” telling the stories of the veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan Conflict

War Words in 2019: A workshop production

In 2019, War Words was performed in a workshop production over eight evenings from December 5-15, 2019, at the Pacific Resident Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The play was directed by Sarah Norris.

After the December 12th performance of War Words, the Atlantic Council hosted a reception with retired General David Petraeus, former commander of US Central Command (USCENTCOM) and of the coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. At this reception, General Petraeus joined Atlantic Council senior fellow and War Words executive producer Steven Grundman for a conversation reflecting on the play, on the general’s own experiences leading the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on the relationship of Americans to US foreign and defense policy. As he wrote in a Linkedin post the following day, General Petraeus commended the work for conveying “vividly the intensity of the relationships of those in the brotherhood of the close fight” as well as other experiences of men and women at war. Read more here:

Event Recap

Dec 16, 2019

War Words in 2019: A stage play about the men and women who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan

By Steven Grundman and Christian Trotti

Walk with us…

Afghanistan Conflict

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Forward Defense, housed within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, generates ideas and connects stakeholders in the defense ecosystem to promote an enduring military advantage for the United States, its allies, and partners. Our work identifies the defense strategies, capabilities, and resources the United States needs to deter and, if necessary, prevail in future conflict.