BLOOMINGTON - Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington will this week launch a unique program aimed at supporting military veterans. Shakespeare + Vets is a conversation group the college says will give veterans the chance to talk about their experiences and tie them into Shakespeare's work. Paul Daily, artistic director of the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center and producer of the program, says the goal is to help veterans gain confidence through the discussions and shared experiences.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Daily said the works of Shakespeare are universal.

"He was writing at a time where there was lots of shifts in the world and, frankly, some of those shifts were life threatening and so in order to keep things kind of vague, he wrote in such a way that everybody feels like it applies to them," said Daily. "Now, a lot of his experiences also tied in very closely with war. War is a common theme for Shakespeare and so those two things together, the universality of what Shakespeare's talking about as well as the war experiences, work very well for veterans to relate to."

Shakespeare + Vets is based on a similar program in Louisville, Kentucky created by a retired Army colonel and the producing artistic director at Kentucky Shakespeare. Daily says he was made aware of the program after speaking at a local Rotary club meeting and made a visit to Louisville.

"It was an incredible experience just sitting in the room for just two hours with those people, hearing their experiences, hearing how they connected with one another, the bonds they had formed in this group. I knew that we had a large veteran population going to Ivy Tech and I don't know how it will appeal to the community at large, although we are a community college and I hope that it does well, but knowing that we had that large, built-in base of students who are veterans, I thought it was a natural fit for Ivy Tech."

The program begins Thursday at 3 p.m. on the Bloomington campus and is open and free to all veterans. Daily says he hopes participants walk away with a love of Shakespeare, but more importantly he hopes they feel more empowered in their communities and closer connections with the people around them.