“It’s time to speak. It’s time to listen.”
That’s the motto of the Telling Project, a performing arts non-profit that gives veterans and their families a platform to speak about their experiences in the military. The Telling Project is a nationwide initiative that has put over 180 soldiers and their families on stage, giving audiences the opportunity to listen to their stories in a unique and engaging format.
Thanks to grants from the Florida Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Telling Project is coming to Gainesville. Telling: Gainesville is a performance directed by Jeffrey Pufahl of UF’s Center for Arts in Medicine, featuring four veterans — who served in the Marine Corps, the Navy and the Army, respectively — and one woman who was married to an Air Force pilot for twenty years.
Pufahl was first drawn to the Telling Project because of his belief in the power of theatre to build strong and healthy communities. The project, at its core, is about building understanding, and creating a bridge between veterans and the larger community. These issues are not often spoken about, especially considering that less than 1% of the population has served in the military over the last eleven years. Those who have often find that re-acclimating to their normal lives after deployment is harder than they anticipated – and the Telling Project hopes to communicate this to the public, and create more empathy and understanding for an underrepresented population.
The performance explores the various reasons why these men enlisted, and follows them through basic training, their first deployment, and, of course, their experiences upon arriving home. It was challenging to find veterans willing to openly discuss this material, especially in such a public and performative way.
“It’s not an easy experience to get in front of people and tell these stories,” Pufahl acknowledges. “It’s heavy material, and it isn’t all pretty.”
It took a small village to get the cast together. But Pufahl posted ads in the Gainesville Sun and at the VA, went to Veterans meetings, talked to friends of friends, and eventually found his cast. Scott Camil, Sue Dudley, Rafe Johnson, Victor Lopez and Andrew Moore will all headline the show, performing a script put together by The Telling Project’s head writer, Max Rayneard after extensive interviews conducted with all five. The performance will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience hosted by Dr. Paul Ortiz from the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at UF.
Telling: Gainesville is an example of “verbatim theatre,” which focuses on a more journalistic, documentary-style of storytelling. Pufahl, who already had a love for the verbatim form, felt it an especially appropriate way to tell these stories.
“There’s an instant connection we, as an audience, have with verbatim theatre, because it is testimony and we identify with that level of truth,” Pufahl explains. “The empathy is very strong, because it’s someone’s actual experience that is being shown to us.”
Pufahl also hired local musician Michael Claytor for the performance, which will feature iconic songs that these men were listening to at around the time they enlisted. The goal of this, according to Pufahl, is to put the events of the narrative in perspective and situate them in a time and place.
Telling: Gainesville will premiere at the Actors’ Warehouse on November 10th at 8 pm. The show will run from November 10th-12th at 8 pm, November 13th at 2 pm, and again November 17th-19th at 8 pm. The show is free and open to the public for its entire run.
For more information about the show, please visit: floridahumanities.org/programs/veterans/telling-gainesville/
For tickets: www.actorswarehouse.org