St. Louis veterans join forces with UMSL faculty, students for Telling Project premiere in Grand Center
Although they’ve just met each other for the first time, the eight people quickly moving chairs into a circle at the University of Missouri–St. Louis aren’t spending much time on small talk.
Under the energetic direction of Jacqueline Thompson, an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Cinema Arts at UMSL, the group is already diving deep into the task at hand: telling the St. Louis region about their military experiences. Together, Joshua Arnold, Darcella Craven, Karen Cross, Michael Lato, Raleigh Muns, John Scates, Margaret Schreffler and Harold Taylor add their voices to script, where each of their stories comes to life.
Taylor describes jumping from airplanes in Georgia. Cross remembers learning to drive a stick shift in Afghanistan. Schreffler opens up about the struggle for support during a spouse’s deployment. Muns finds value in the months he spent assigned to funeral detail. Lato discusses going back to school and pursuing a college degree.
With stories as wide-ranging as the places they’ve served around the world, each participant’s words weave around the others’ in fascinating and often moving ways. The seamless, three-act script is the work of Max Rayneard, who individually interviewed all eight cast members at UMSL several months ago.
Rayneard is senior writer and director for The Telling Project, a national performing arts nonprofit that employs theater to deepen society’s understanding of the military and veterans’ experience. And that’s something Jim Craig, chair of UMSL’s Department of Military and Veterans Studies, was eager to bring to St. Louis when he first began spearheading UMSL’s collaboration with The Telling Project this past winter.
“There are lots of historical and cultural references to warriors coming back and then telling their stories as a part of their integration process,” Craig recently told St. Louis Public Radio’s Dale Singer, “and the community that sent them, or the community that they represented, listening to those stories, honestly, openly, trying to comprehend what they just asked their citizens or their warrior representatives to do. We don’t have that in our country, outside of small programs like this. But there’s a move afoot that says this might be what we’re missing.”
Beginning at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, those stories will be in the spotlight at Kranzberg Arts Center (501 N. Grand Blvd), with Thompson, the cast members and two UMSL student assistants putting on a total of six free performances the first two weekends in June (advanced reservations are required).
Since 2008, The Telling Project has developed 40 original productions in cities throughout the country, putting local veterans on stage at well-known venues such as the Guthrie Theater and the Library of Congress. This spring’s partnership marks The Telling Project’s debut in St. Louis, which has the highest concentration of veterans in Missouri.
The Telling Project staff note that because less than one percent of the U.S. population currently serve in the armed forces, Americans have become increasingly separated from those who serve.
“With such a small percentage serving in the military today, contact with veterans must be created and supported,” said Jonathan Wei, The Telling Project’s founder and executive director. “And to have this work supported by UMSL and the Kranzberg Arts Center is truly an honor and means so much to veterans and military family members.”
For more information and to reserve seats, click here.
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