The Telling Project

For more than a decade, the US military (and its allies) went, to use a military term, “balls to the wall” in a two-front war. The result was an op tempo that left time for little other than the mission. Now that things are starting to slow, veterans have time to reflect and they are finding their voices. And The Telling Project is helping them do it.

Started in 2008 by Jonathan Wei, The Telling Project uses acting to help veterans and their families tell their stories to their own communities. Through collaborations with local, community participants, such as colleges and veterans groups, The Telling Project finds veterans in a certain location (past Tellings include Eugene, Oregon, Starkville, Mississippi, and Stockton, New Jersey), conducts recorded interviews of them, and uses the interviews to develop a script. Then, the veterans and veterans’ family members participate in 4-8 weeks of acting or “performance training” with an experienced theatre director, followed by 4-8 weeks of rehearsal. This culminates in a multi-day performance, usually around three to four days worth, of “The Telling” as a live stage production.

Using this process, not only does “The Telling” get a personalized and unique production each time, but it also gets one that speaks to the veterans in that community, connecting the performers, who are part of that community (but may not feel so) to the audience, also members of their community. The approach, in my opinion, makes the performance both more personal and more tangible for the audience and, thereby, more effective than a one-size-fits-all production made with “real” actors. This connection with the community is one of the primary objectives of “The Telling.”

I have watched both the full production of “The Telling: Eugene,” as well as the documentary about the making of “The Telling: Eugene” called “In the Telling.” Both were incredibly interesting. I am not an actor – I stink at playing pretend, always have. But, you know what, so did some of those veterans before they did “The Telling.” In some of the interviews in the documentary, though, you could see their transformation and the good it was doing them to get outside their comfort zone and express themselves and connect with the people they passed on the street every day, who otherwise might not know how to talk to them. So, if you’ve ever wanted to get on stage, or even if you’re like me and you never wanted to but think you’re brave enough to give it a shot or you just plain have something to say, check out The Telling Project. And, even if, like me, you’d rather watch from the sidelines, then at least go support your fellow vets as they stand up and represent you.

Thanks to a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation, The Telling Project will host at least nine productions this year. Upcoming performances include:

– Telling: Aggieland – 29 Apr-1 May 2014

– Telling: Denver – 30 July-3 Aug 2014

– Telling: San Antonio – 1-5 Oct 2014

– Telling: Austin – 25 Oct-9 Nov 2014

– As yet unscheduled performances in Chicago, Portland (Oregon), New York City, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles are also planned for this year.

You can find out more about the The Telling Project, including an updated list of performances and how to get involved in a Telling in your area, here. You can also get a taste of the telling by watching this 2:49 clip of “The Telling: Eugene” here.

© 2014 – 2020, Sarah Maples LLC. All rights reserved.

Sarah Maples is a former Air Force intelligence officer and an Afghanistan veteran. She is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in veteran, military, and defense topics.

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