"They were going to look at war, the red animal – war, the blood-swollen god."

What is The Red Animal Project?

“They were going to look at war, the red animal – war, the blood-swollen god.”          The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Animal Project is a new play and a new blog.

As of this writing, the United States has been at war for almost a decade. Two million Americans have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, some multiple times. Yet the war and the people who fight it remain largely invisible to many Americans. By exploring the experiences of combat soldiers at war and at home, The Red Animal Project (both play and blog) aims to spark questions, combat stereotypes, promote understanding of soldiers as individuals, and contribute to a national discussion about war and warriors that is way overdue.


The Red Animal is a new play by Melissa Cooper. The story follows five young American soldiers over the course of a year’s deployment in a remote outpost in Afghanistan.  The play is inspired by Stephen Crane’s great Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage, and the experiences of soldiers today.

The Red Animal is co-commissioned by two theaters in Missouri: Coterie Theatre in Kansas City and Metro Theater Company in Saint Louis.   The play will receive workshops and readings throughout 2011 in Indianapolis, Saint Louis and NYC.  It will open at Metro Theater Company in January 2012, followed by a production in fall 2012 at the Coterie.

If you are interested in knowing more about the play, please contact Melissa Cooper at melissacoopernyc@gmail.com


1. The Red Animal Project blog is created by the playwright to share her research in the hopes that it will contribute to raising awareness about the experiences of the soldiers who fight our wars and then come home to us. Posts on The Red Animal will range widely, and may include discussions or reviews of news articles, links to interesting military blogs, interviews with soldiers and veterans, artwork, annotated lists of novels, films or memoirs by and about soldiers, and anything else that seems relevant.

2. The Red Animal blog will also track the play’s journey towards production.  Look for info on upcoming readings and workshops as well as interviews with artistic collaborators (designers, directors, artistic directors, actors),  design sketches and rehearsal photos.

  • To return to reading blog posts, click on the large “The Red Animal Project” at the top of each page.
  • Or click here: Take me to the latest Red Animal blog posts
  • Older blog posts may be accessed by clicking “Archives” in the menu at top of page, and then scrolling down.

The Red Animal blog is a work-in-process. Your comments on blog posts are most welcome as are questions, recommendations for reading or viewing, and suggestions for future posts.

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  1. The possibilities here seem endless, but I’ll start with just one–the justly acclaimed trilogy by English writer Pat Barker about the terrible toll of trench fighting in World War I as well as the resulting shell-shock suffered by both those officers and troops who were on the line for long periods of time. Called the Regeneration Trilogy, it is a Booker Prize winner and a fascinating read.

    And bravo and brava to you for inviting us to participate with you in what will surely be a
    an extraordinary expedition.

    • Thank you. I’ve read two of the three books in Barker’s Trilogy. They are extraordinary, and I look forward to reading the third. I’m guessing more novels about Iraq and Afghanistan will start to emerge in the coming years – although it seems the publishing industry is pretty focused on war memoirs.

  2. Melissa,

    Good luck with this! Look forward to the production.

    As for reccys, you probably know E.B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed, about a young (the photos at the end of the edition i read come as a shock after all the mud and maggots) Marine in the Pacific in WWII. DIfferent war, of course, but at some level they are all the same nightmare.

    • I don’t know With the Old Breed, so thank you for the recommendation. I’ll look into it. And yes, I’m very much interested in good material from any era. Thanks also for your support!

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