Stories from the War in Afghanistan are often depicted in the news; however, it is less common for members of the general public with no military connection to hear first-hand accounts of the war.
The University of Maryland Veteran Student Life office wants to share with students the experiences of veterans and their family members through performance art.
The performance came to The Clarice’s Kay Theatre Saturday night. The story of Czubai is “the everyman story – it’s sad, but it’s also very true,” Tyler La Marr, a Marine veteran and actor who plays the part of Czubai, said.
The show is based on the original BASETRACK website created in 2010 by journalists who were embedded within the “1/8,” also known as the “1st Battalion, 8th Marines” in southern Afghanistan. The website was designed for the purpose of aiding communication between this group of marines and their families back in the U.S.
The journalists involved also created a Facebook page and website to upload interviews and photographs of the Marines, allowing their families back home to see their loved ones and know they are still alive.
The performance followed the story of Czubai from his enlistment in the Marines to his return home as well as his struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The story also chronicled how his wife, Melissa, handled the circumstances of her new life and changes in Czubai after his deployment.
The Marines’ fears of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as well as their choices to be infantrymen were emphasized throughout the show. Marines stated in interviews that they would rather fight with guns than risk the chance of stepping on an IED.
Edward Bilous, a faculty member at The Juilliard School in New York, created the performance, and, with the help of adaptor Jason Grote, transformed photographs and videos from BASETRACK into a live performance..
“It’s so rare that there is a project that really shows the human dimensions of war,” Anne Hamburger, executive producer of BASETRACK Live, said.
The scenery of the performance is simple; director Seth Bockley said the Marine bases in Afghanistan inspired the sand-colored tarps, which were used as the backdrop for multimedia projections.
Bockley said that BASETRACK has mostly toured on college campuses because university performing arts centers are able to cater to multimedia and technological needs.
“[It’s a] great show for college audiences because it asks philosophical questions about being young people deciding to join the military and the consequences that follow,” Bockley said.
Melissa’s character spoke about how Czubai was deployed during the birth of their child, Jordan. The character explained the difficulties of dealing with Czubai’s volatile behavior after his return from Afghanistan, such as keeping a gun in the house.
Melissa tried helping Czubai until she was unable to handle it and left him.
Along with photographs and videos, the show incorporates live music including percussion, piano, electric and acoustic violin, bass and cello.
UMD Veteran Student Life helped bring this performance to campus as a collaboration with The Clarice in order to raise awareness of veterans on campus.
“We constantly get asked inappropriate questions,” veteran and student Henry Carbajales said. “BASETRACK [Live]…gives people a better understanding of what we went through.”
For more information about the ongoing tour, click here.
Victoria Tanner is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.