Theatre Piece Reveals Service Members’ Struggles to Re-Enter Civilian Life

  • Only 1 percent of the American population goes to war.
  • 22 veterans are committing suicide every day.
  • 2.6 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are working to leave the war behind and reintegrate into society.
  • Veterans come home from the war and mostly don’t want to talk about it.

BASETRACK Live starts the conversation.

The Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College kicks off its 2016-2017 season with BASETRACK Live, a play with live musical accompaniment and multi-media. This extraordinary work of documentary theater is a collaboration between award-winning theatre company En Garde Arts and corpsmen from the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. BASETRACK Live powerfully portrays the impact of war on veterans and their families, and does not represent these characters as either heroes or victims. Instead, it shows a complicated and sensitive portrayal of how war affects us all. Anne Hamburger, executive producer of En Garde Arts, talked with us about the show.

PAS at JCCC: Tell us a bit about En Garde Arts.

AH: En Garde Arts is an award-winning, not-for-profit, site-specific theatre company that has been the recipient of six Obies, two Drama Desk Awards and an Outer Critics Circle Award. The New York Times called us an “invigorating urban presence.” We spearhead creative development and production of theatrical projects by pairing artistic teams with innovative development of new ideas, content and forms.

PAS at JCCC: Why was BASETRACK Live developed?

AH: I came to a workshop production at Juilliard presented by Ed Bilous, who originally developed BASETRACK Live. It was incredibly powerful — its use of documentary video footage of the Marines in Afghanistan, stunning photography and a beautiful electro-acoustic musical score. It was originally focused on a story of a Marine unit in Afghanistan. We took this story and expanded it to include Marines at home before deployment, boot camp, deployment, wartime, and then coming home. We also decided to add the experience of loved ones — spouses, brothers, sisters and mothers. We felt it was important to chronicle the whole journey — everyone’s journey. There are so many films that sensationalize the experience of war. This is a story about real people, told in their own words. It is sensitive, accessible, moving and even includes some humor.

PAS at JCCC: What has been the biggest challenge or reward of the show?

AH: Earning the trust of veterans and their families in advance, so they’ll come see the show, is challenging. We’ve had situations where servicemen and women say, “I wish I had known how wonderful this was, I would have made sure all my friends and family members had come!” It has been rewarding to see the reactions of our audiences, who have been very moved and impressed by the sensitivity of the storytelling.

After seeing BASETRACK Live, Phil Klay, author of Redeployment, 2014 Winner, National Book Award for Fiction, said, “It would be enough if BASETRACK Live simply gave us a viscerally powerful depiction of war and its aftermath, if it only captured the sly humor of Marines, the pride of the infantry, and the psychological disorientation of homecoming. But it also provides an intimate portrait of military families both during deployment and after, sharing their stories with warmth, humor, and raw honesty.”

A partnership with JCCC Veteran & Military Student Resource Center, BASETRACK Live will be among the activities offered this fall to JCCC students who are former service members. Kena Zumalt, JCCC Veteran Services coordinator, said, “Art allows us to look at life at a different slant. I believe the use of this perspective is important to veterans, military service members and their families in their transition and readjustment to life after deployment. JCCC Veteran Services has brought many artists to campus to work with veteran students to creatively express experiences and feelings. Students have indicated that these opportunities were rewarding and helpful. We are excited to bring BASETRACK Live to our campus community — both civilians and veterans — as we believe the impact of the performance will facilitate transition-experience dialogues.”

When: 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 9
Where: Yardley Hall, JCCC, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park, Kan.
Tickets: $23 and $33 for general public
Service members with Military ID receive a discount (2 ticket limit)

For tickets or information, check out the newly redesigned Performing Arts Series website, www.jccc.edu/TheSeries or call the box office at (913) 469-4445.

–Emily Behrmann

About The Author: Contributing Writer

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