Photo of Myranda Archer on stage

Growing up, Myranda Archer heard whisperings about family members who returned home from the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam forever changed. She never got the full stories, but the bits and pieces she overheard became etched in her childhood memories.

Now, as the student dramaturg for Ohio Northern University’s production of the contemporary play, “Ugly Lies the Bone,” the theatre major is seeking to understand the struggles facing veterans who served in war zones and to discover who these brave men and women are beneath their uniforms.

“This play caught my attention, because in a way, those stories I heard growing up remind me of the main character,” said Myranda.

Photo of Archer looking at army/navy photos on her bedONU’s theatre program received a $5,000 grant from the Ohio Arts Council for the production taking place in ONU’s Stambaugh Theatre, Feb. 29 to March 2. In addition to the grant, Quest Federal Credit Union is providing underwriting.

The grant and underwriting have enabled Myranda, and the ONU cast and crew, to engage in community outreach with local veterans and veteran organizations to build understanding and awareness. The focus has been on veterans involved in post-9/11 conflicts.

Myranda explained that “Ugly Lies the Bone,” written by award-winning playwright Lindsey Ferrentino, tells the fictional story of Jess, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan. She is sent home after being severely injured in an IED explosion and engages in VR (virtual reality) therapy to help heal her body and mind.

“She is trying to adapt to life now, trying to rebuild the relationships that were lost when she went overseas,” said Myranda. “But she spent so much of her life in a war zone that she is always in fight or flight mode and has this combative mindset.”

Myranda transferred to ONU this fall after completing her freshman and sophomore year at Wilmington College. A theatre major with a minor in music, she is also seeking education licensure. Her dream is to be a high school drama instructor.

As the play’s dramaturg, she is gaining invaluable experience for her future career. Tasked with helping the actors become fully immersed in their roles, she has undertaken extensive research into VR therapy, the Afghanistan war, and the economic climate in Florida circa 2011—the play’s setting.

“She’s bringing a lot to the table,” said Brian Sage, the play’s director.

“Her research provides imaginative fuel for the actors as they explore the physical and psychological actions of the characters, what motivates them, how they engage with each other and their environment, and how the world of the play impacts each of the characters,” he added.

Myranda also arranged for the cast and crew to interact with three ONU veterans. She led the discussions to ensure that the questions and conversations also resulted in imaginative fuel for the rehearsal process, said Sage.

Participating veterans were Jake Lutz, an ONU law student who served two deployments in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marines on a Counter IED dog team. He provided background on the Afghanistan war zone and on IEDs. Miranda Soto, an ONU biology student who served for eight years in the U.S. Navy, shared insights on being a female in the military. U.S. Navy veteran and ONU alumnus James Lee, BA ’16, enlightened the cast and crew on the stresses of serving overseas and being away from family.

Photo of Archer looking at army/navy photos on her bed 2“Our conversations with these veterans provided tremendous insight into the psychological impacts of basic training, the mental rewiring necessary to perform their service (jobs), the heightened awareness, sensitivity, and pace of life associated with military deployment and how that all changes when they come back home, making it tremendously difficult to return to ‘normal’ life,” said Sage.

Jessica Sanders, a sophomore musical theatre major and dance minor from Morristown, Tenn., said the conversations helped her dive deeper into her role as the play’s lead character “Jess.”

 “It was fascinating as an actor to watch the body language (of the veterans),” she said. “It’s always so exciting to get to talk to real people about real things so that my acting can be as truthful and respectful as possible.”

For additional outreach, Myranda is gathering survey responses and photographs from veterans in Hardin and Allen counties. The photos will be on display in the lobby of the Freed Center for the Performing Arts before each show.

“We’ve asked them to send a picture from when they most felt like themselves,” she said, adding that the play’s overall message is seeing the real person behind the uniform.

“I think the biggest takeaway from the play is the beauty of accepting and embracing who you are,” she explained. “And, it’s about taking control of who you want to be.”

Sage agrees. He hopes the play humanizes service members and sheds light on their post-service experience.

“Mainstream media focuses primarily on a soldier’s service,” he said, “and this play opens our eyes to the no less heroic act of reintegrating into civilian life. There is a universal message of the need for forward momentum and the letting go of the past.”

Tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 419-772-1900 or in person at the Freed Center Box Office, Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Adult tickets are $20 with discounts for ONU employees ($15), senior citizens ($10), and $5 tickets for ONU students, non-ONU students and children. 

Audiences are advised that this production does not include an intermission and run time is approximately 90 minutes. Performances contain the use of strobe lights, haze, gunshots and other loud sounds.