For all its complexities and portrayals in pop culture, war is an act that tears and disjoints, fractures, and reshapes those who fight it and those who love them. Basetrack Live explores what happens after the fracture. A theatrical character study, it focuses on the real lives of Marine veteran, AJ, and his wife Melissa, exploring the impact of war on the couple as he goes off to battle, the life she leads while he fights, and the pieces of themselves they have to put together when he returns — and how that trauma resonates and wounds more deeply than any bullet.
Presented by MDC Live Arts on March 21 at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center as part of a national tour, Basetrack Live was inspired by photojournalist Teru Kuwayama’s 2010 social media reporting project. The original exhibition featured photographs taken by Kuwayama while he was embedded with members of the First Battalion, Eighth Marines during their deployment in Afghanistan, along with photos taken by the Marine’s themselves.
For the multi-media theatrical piece, Basetrack Live, two actors prowl the stage, and a three-member band joins them, punctuating the drama and poignancy of the story with deliberate orchestration. Images from the original Basetrack exhibition illuminate the stage, and the script is based on interviews with the Marines themselves, as actor and former Marine, Tyler LaMarr, who portrays the character AJ, explains.
“Everything that is said onstage, is verbatim from the interview text, so there’s no drama added in,” he says. “It portrays this story exactly as it is and it makes you see the people who serve in the military for who they actually are, because we’re all the same, its just whoever has served in the military has gone through an experience of extraordinary circumstances that have changed them in one way or another.”
“Veterans and their families are part of our communities,” says Kathryn Garcia, Executive Director of MDC Live Arts. “I thought it would be really interesting to find a project that could try to build some bridges [between veterans and] people who haven’t had any exposure to, or any kind of experience of war, to get to know more about it, because it is something that effects all of us. This whole project is really about creating opportunities for veterans and their families … to find community, to alleviate a little bit of that isolation.”
With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, MDC Live Arts has developed a program, with Basetrack Live as its centerpiece, which aims to give voice to veterans living in South Florida. Basetrack Miami includes an exhibition of Kuwayama’s original photos at the Betsy Hotel on South Beach, a Live Arts Veterans Lab, led by actor/playwright/director Teo Castellanos and poet/veteran/mental heath practitioner Anthony Torres, which will culminate in a performance on April 19 during O Miami, as well as an initiative with public radio WLRN called Veterans Among Us, that invites veterans to share their stories and photos of their own deployments.
“This show is significant because a lot of things out there portray PTSD as a disease, this horrible thing that people have to go through, and they’re never okay, and you have to, you know, tread on eggshells around them,” LaMarr says. “What’s great about this show is that it is the every man’s story: he joins the Marine Corps, he gets deployed, he gets hurt, he comes home, he has to deal with his issues, unfortunately during that time, it costs him his marriage. But, at the end of it, he comes through on the other side and he is okay.
“And that is something that we’re not seeing now, that we don’t see these stories of hope that’s like, you can deal with this stuff, as long as you seek help where you can and when you need it, you can get through it.
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“Everyone is going to have their own preconceptions about the military based on they own experiences or lack thereof,” he continues. “Just keep an open mind and remember that people, active duty veterans, military members — they’re just people, just like us. This is the story of the extraordinary circumstances that they’ve gone through, because of their choice to serve their country.”
-Rebekah Lanae Lengel, artburstmiami.com
MDC Live Arts presents Basetrack Live this Saturday at 8:00 p.m., South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 S.W. 211th St, Miami. Tickets: $15-$35 (students with valid ID $10. Free to area veterans with proof of service. For details on all events, go to mdclivearts.org.