Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

Riverside Actors Theatre presents a collection of military stories for Veterans Day

By: Nov. 27, 2023
Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

Veteran’s Day is always special for me, because had it not been for my Air Force dad marrying a woman he met in Okinawa, I wouldn’t be here. It doesn’t take much to make me tear up when it comes to our service men and women, and that is exactly what happened when I went to THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at The Arkansas Repertory Theatre, 601 Main St, in Little Rock, on Saturday, Nov. 11. Director Ben Grimes and Assistant Director Ben Barham, founders of Riverside Actors Theatre, brought together an array of service members who braved the stage and shared their lives that pulled the audience members closer together as we melted while feeling collective emotions for our storytellers.   

Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

As a theatre major - turned soldier - turned back to an actor, Major Ben Grimes has been creating ways to use theatre as a vehicle to channel his time in the service. According to https://www.riversideactorstheatre.org, “Riverside Actors Theatre is theatre with a purpose - to heal, to connect, and to serve.” They “believe theatre can be used to transform lives, to bring attention to social issues, and to make our community better.”  

In this docutheater experience, they opened strong by standing together as a team ready to bare their souls. I was immediately getting emotional and preparing myself for what was to come. Taking the stage were members of the Marines, Army, Navy, and family members, and they all had compelling stories to tell.  

Because the experience was meant to be a safe space for our speakers as well as for the audience, I won’t go into a lot of detail about their stories, but I want to honor everyone who took the time to share.  

Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

Serving in the United States Marine Corp, JC McDaniel talked about his time as an Officer preparing his troupes to battle.  

Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

Serving in the United States Army, Stephen Perry told of his experience as a Combat Medic at the end of the war. 

Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

Serving in the United States Navy, Aaron Roberts spoke about their time on a submarine and how challenging it was for certification.     

Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

Family member Kevin Delaney talked about his Vietnam Vet father, Agent Orange, and lymphoma. 

Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

Serving in the United States Marine Corp, Barry Clifton gave his speech on a video talking about his attitude and his honor to wear his military paraphernalia. 

Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

Serving in the United States Marine Corp, now Lieutenant Colonel Jason Smedley told a story about his time in Iraq as a Lance Corporal and how he would give up anything to be with his Marines.

Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

Serving in the United States Army, Britni Dumas performed a piece on forgiveness by letting go of the bricks weighing her down and packing up real life items to help her move on with life. 

Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

Family member Ruth D Shepherd told of her first love and losing him in the war. 

I cannot express enough about how grateful I am to each and every one of these individuals who shared their story with us. I didn’t want it to end, yet I also didn’t know how much more my heart could take. This was so powerful and needed. 

Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre

After the show, a panel that included Ben Grimes, Dr. Rick Owen (VA), and retired General Wesley Clark discussed topics including the historic problems in treating mental health issues in the Veteran community, the recent difficulty with prolonged American engagement abroad resulting multiple deployments, and the added challenge of such a small professional fighting force coming from specific communities within the United States instead of a broad cross section of society, which leads to the majority of the population not feeling the real human costs of sustained war. They also discussed the value of Veteran’s telling their stories as a remedy to all three of those challenges. 

"We would like to thank our sponsors Gen (Ret.) Wesley and Gert Clark, Jim Gifford, The Windgate Foundation, and the Arkansas Arts Council for supporting our vision in bringing these stories to the stage," Barham said.   

Riverside Actors Theatre is still in the beginning phase of their existence, and they are currently fundraising so they can continue to bring theatre that helps the community heal. If you would like to contribute to this worthy organization, visit their website at https://www.riversideactorstheatre.org

Broadway World would like to thank Certified Professional Photographer Matthew Sewell of Matthew Sewell Photography for these wonderful pictures. Check out his website at https://www.msewellphotography.com for his holiday sale. 

Review: THE BREACH: STORIES OF SERVICE at Arkansas Repertory Theatre



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