BWW Interview: Douglas Taurel of THE AMERICAN SOLDIER at Miles Square Theatre
Actor Douglas Taurel on His Solo Show, The American Soldier
While Americans often receive an overview of the perils of war from a distance, through news coverage, videos, and other media sources, we often fail to connect with the human beings underneath the armor. They are men and women, husband and wives, fathers and mothers that have made the ultimate sacrifice for their families and loved ones. What can we do as a country to truly thank them? Attempt to understand them through listening and providing the sources of support they truly need when it comes to re-entering society.
Esteemed actor, Douglas Taurel, who has graced the screen and the stage in works such as "The Cobbler," "Blue Bloods," and more, dedicates his compelling solo show, The American Soldier to not only veterans, but also to their families who have also make sacrifices for the greater good of our nation. Taurel's journey considers more than just the lasting and haunting effects life in a war zone produces, including PTSD, but also serves as a call to action for civilians to think about how they can give back in a truly meaningful way.
BroadwayWorld had the extraordinary opportunity to speak with Taurel about the inspiration behind the work, the impact the show has had on veterans and their families, and what America needs do to ensure their successful re-assimilation into society.
BroadwayWorld: What about this topic really resonated with you and moved you to tell these stories?
Douglas Taurel: I've actually been working on this project for eight years and had such a hard time hearing about the struggles of veterans. I wanted to give back and have people understand the true sacrifices that veterans make. Not only that, but I also wanted people to truly understand the sacrifices that their families make when their loved one is off at war.
Tell me about the research process behind the script.
There were a couple of stories in the media that really caught my attention. The first was of a video of a veteran who had done 3 tours in Iraq and just seeing him unable to escape from his pain - even when becoming reunited with his family at home - was heartbreaking. You can see his family looking on from a distance wishing that their dad was "there" even though he was in the next room. Another was a Wall Street Journal article about an Iraqi vet struggling to find work after coming home. There are some many veterans dealing with PTSD and these multiple tours are sort of like forced drafts -- some do 4 or 5 tours -- and that's why veteran suicide is so high. Our military is facing a mental health crisis that they are completely unprepared for. The more society has a better understanding of their struggles, the more we can support legislation and programs for these men and women and figure out how to help them.
The stories range from the Revolutionary War to present day Afghanistan. Are there certain themes that stand out over this span of time or major discoveries you made about the impact of war over hundreds of years?
What's fascinating is that PTSD was something that was studied and written about by Homer in the Iliad - Shakespeare also talks about it. I had no idea that it had been documented so long and that deep of history, so what I've found that the main theme, even as far back as the Revolution, is that we tend to rattle really loud at the beginning of a conflict and then when our soldiers come back, we tend to completely neglect our military. It's a pattern that we keep repeating and what's so eerie with my show is that you can swap the stories and you would not know from what war they would be coming from. It's almost identical when they talk about brotherhood and sacrifice.
Brotherhood is a huge theme and every single war; it's what they are talking about. When they come back from war, those bonds of brotherhood are broken so quickly - bonds that have been so intensified by the life and death circumstances they faced in war - and it's kind of like taking a child from a family and has such a negative psychological effect.
What is the journey like for you bringing these 14 veterans and their family members to life?
At the end of each show, I am absolutely emotionally drained. I spend some time socializing after the show - we have a lot of veterans and their families come and they often express their gratitude - and then go home to decompress. It's really like running marathon and such an emotional event, so I've learned that it's very important to reserve some time for yourself after the show is done.
Can you talk a little bit about the struggles face when coming home from war and how it affects their re-entry into society?
As my WWII soldier says and it's a phrase of veterans, "When you go off to war, you go off as a kid, but when you come back you are hollow inside." It's not like you are coming through the door and reclaiming your seat at the dinner table. It doesn't work that way. The adjustment is really tough and you are not the same person at all.
In your opinion, what can be done to help our veterans - what would you like to see our country do for them?
We should have some kind of camp for our soldiers to detox for six months or so when they come home. We are sending them off to some of the most horrendous areas of the world and then they come back and are expected to be like everyone else. They need our help to assimilate back into society. We need to hire more doctors and go to the people in the military and ask what they need and how we can help. If a soldier loses a limb or their sight, we have the science to help them recover, but we have nothing set up mentally for them when they come back from war.
Civilians get to live their lives and are not really all that connected to war. No one stops doing what they are doing - we still go to Starbucks, go to the movies. It's almost kind of like a video game, the way we look at combat and war.
We're experiencing a lost generation and now that these issues are cropping up more, the more we need to be able to understand how we can help them assimilate them back into society, which we will all benefit from. It'll decrease domestic abuse, and a lot of these other problems.
Your career has spanned the screen and the stage. What is it about the live performance that you enjoy the most?
With a solo show like this, I really get to be so in tune with the audience and feel and breathe with them. A solo show is really the truest form of storytelling - it's just you up there - and a challenge that I've always wanted. It's so exhilarating to "feel the audience" and connect with every emotion they are experiencing during a performance.
What do you hope audiences will ultimately take away from The American Solider as they leave the theater each night?
It's a different time that we live in, because with WWII for example, everyone knew someone who went off to war - - you had a father, neighbor, brother, someone - and now civilians don't have as much of a direct connection to it. My goal is for audiences to see veterans differently and for them to take away a deeper admiration and appreciation of sacrifice. We all enjoy freedom because of the sacrifices of veterans and their families - our country is great because it affords us such freedom - but we must realize its high cost and that the least we can do is honor those who have given so much of themselves.
The American Solider performs September 9 and 10 @ 8pm and September 11 @ 3pm at the Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken. Purchase tickets at www.milesquaretheatre.org
Photo Credit: Dianna Bush Photography