War as Crime

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About War as Crime
Avatar is the nom de guerre of an intellectual in a breakaway republic of the former Yugoslavia. His best friend, Radek, is a career soldier. Both belong to opposing ethnic groups, formerly living in peace, now at war, civil war. Radek is involved in ethnic cleansing operations against Avatar’s ethnic group. Avatar and his younger sister Vila, in hiding, witness the forcible evacuation of their parents from their village. Vila runs to plead with Radek to spare their parents, but Radek lets his soldiers rape Vila, then executes her. Avatar is too late to prevent the murder, but stays in hiding and slips away. That night, he takes bloody revenge on Radek. Filled with hatred and an unquenchable desire for revenge, Avatar turns into a long-range sniper, dressing up as one of the opposing army’s “cowboys.” He speaks their language and pretends he is killing innocent people of his own ethnic group. In reality, his many victims are the sniper “cowboys.” His decption is never discovered. One day he kills his fiftieth “sniper,” but his victim is a Canadian peacekeeper who dressed like one of the “cowboys.” Overcome with remorse and self-loathing, Avatar surrenders to British peacekeepers and demands to be turned over to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague as a self-confessed war criminal. The story takes place in the court room in a series of flashbacks. The tension mounts as Avatar tells the judges about his villages, their old peaceful lifestyle, how former neighbours turned against one another, and how ethnic hatred corrupted everyone. He demands the death sentence, but, as tells the judges, “this is not what you people do.” There is a shocking and unexpected ending to this tragedy of guilt and atonement. The monodrama contains many descriptive and realistic sound effects and a haunting, recurring theme by a viola, especially composed for this audio drama.

About the author/audio artist, Jurgen Hesse

Jurgen Hesse is an old hand at telling stories and concocting dramatic sound effects. He worked for the national CBC Radio network from 1961 to 1985, producing hundreds of radio documentaries and stereo features, receiving an ACTRA Award for best writing in 1982, and the U.S. Wilbur Award for best religious program in 1983. He then turned to writing books, seeing two dozen published, ranging from fiction, to concrete poetry, to artists’ books, and to non-fiction. In 2000, after publishing War as Crime in print form, and seeing many sold, he decided to turn the monodrama script into an audio-CD. Most of his CBC Radio programs were produced by his collaborator, CBC Radio drama and arts producer Don Mowatt. The duo teamed up again for this CD.

About the producer/director, Don Mowatt:

Don Mowatt was for 34 years a radio drama and features producer at CBC Vancouver. During that time he produced more than 500 plays and feature documentaries winning two Peabody medals and awards from ACTRA, Gabriel, Wilbur, B’nai Brith, Armstrong, the NY Audio Arts Festival and others. In 1993 he was chairman of the jury for the Prix Futura – Documetaries division in Berlin. He has been a lecturer in the creative writing, film and theatre department at the University of British Columbia since 1997, and co-artistic director of Western Gold Theatre company since 1998. He is also a prominent playwright, director, actor, and musician in the Scandinavian community on the West Coast.

About the actor, Ron Halder:

Ron Halder, who performs the monodrama War as Crime, has performed in theatres across Canada from Victoria to Charlottetown. He worked for two seasons at Bard on the Beach. He has toured Canada, the United States, Belfast, and South Africa with bassoonist George Zuckerman in a show called The Great Mozart Hunt in which he plays nine characters. Ron has also appeared as Cronos in Stargate SG1 and guest starred in Highlander, Millennium and Hope Island as well as roles in X-files, Dead Man’s Gun and Outer Limits. He is currently busy doing voicework in cartoons and the occasional reading for CBC Radio.

About the tenor, Yetvart Hosepyan:

Yetvart Hosepyan is a member of the Vancouver-based Vivaldi chamber choir. His lyrical tenor is well-suited for the two songs he performs in War as Crime: first the mediƦval ditty O du lieber Augustin, performed by a wandering minstrel to the survivors of villages where the plague decimated the population, to cheer them up. His second performance is an a cappella Lament for the Dead of the Armenian Orthodox Church.

A note on the technical genesis of the audio-CD War as Crime:

From the beginning the audio artist (Jurgen Hesse) intended to use a stand-alone sound montage to introduce the audio-CD. The ensuing story is told in a series of fast-changing sound effects, musical chords and drums that segues into the courtroom atmosphere (recorded in a small Catholic church just before for service began). This 5.45-minute sequence is highly dramatic and sets the tone for the entire CD. The eight segments are separated by stand-alone sound montages or viola interludes.

The voice track, many of the sound effects, and most of the music tracks on this CD were recorded on a mini-disc recorder in digital format, using a professional one-point stereo microphone. All recorded sounds were mixed and edited on a high-speed computer, using a leading digital audio-editing program. Most sound effects came from Jurgen Hesse’s and Don Mowatt’s extensive sound archives; they were digitally remastered from the original reel-to-reel analog format. The actor, Ron Halder, was recorded in the Roman Catholic Good Shepherd Church in South Surrey, B.C., selected because of its outstanding acoustic quality.