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Don’t Mean Nothin’ takes the stage

By Staff | May 24, 2012

The award-winning, hour-long sound presentation, Don’t Mean Nothin’, which recreates the journey of a young man coming to terms with the deep spiritual wounds from war, will be presented in the auditorium of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29. Creators Jim Surkamp, Kevin Williams, Bill Caldwell and Ardyth Gilbertson will be present afterward for discussion.

Inspired by the experience of Art James, who served in the 1st Cavalry division in Vietnam, Don’t Mean Nothin’ which was written and directed by Jim Surkamp, was broadcast nationally twice in 1999 by Public Radio International. Kevin Williams, professor of communications at Shepherd University, created the sound design. Actor Bill Caldwell, of Martinsburg plays “Vergil,” the main character. Ardyth Gilbertson of Shepherdstown performs as Vergil’s high school girlfriend, a nurse and later wife. Dave Hellyer contributes a beautiful harmonica performance.

Don’t Mean Nothin’ won a 1995 Silver Angel Award “for moral excellence in media.” Then producer of Monitor Radio, Kenneth Bader, wrote: “This is among the most eloquent scripts I’ve read in my

20 years in broadcast journalism.”

Veteran magazine wrote: “Don’t Mean Nothin’ means much, much more.” Film director Oliver

Stone supported the production with soundscapes from his films.

Dr. Charles Figley, who served on the original Veterans Affairs committee that identified Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) said of that production, “It has a good chance of deeply moving people who care about the immediate and long-term psychosocial consequences of war and about this country.”

Dr. Roger K. Pitman, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School wrote of Don’t Mean Nothin’,

“Beyond the clinically accurate vignettes, this audiotape brings the experience of the PTSD veteran to life in a simple yet moving way. The tape also offers hope, in the redemption and emotional rebirth that Vergil experiences with his new son. The closing note is positive, and the quote from the Old Testament is right on the mark.”

Discussions afterward will address differences and similarities in post-traumatic stress experiences from different theaters of war, past, recent and present.