I remember the first play I directed. It wasn’t anything to brag about. It was a one-act comedy playing Off-Off Broadway but I was elated to be directing. I’d been acting for a few years and I felt that my instincts as an actor might make me a halfway decent director. Our opening weekend was promising – folks were laughing and the actors were at the top of their game. I started to plot my next directorial effort. We were dark on Monday night. And then came Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The play never opened again. It’s safe to say my life took a few sharp turns after that.
It’s taken me twenty years to get back to the theater. I founded VetRep to bring the veteran community (including military, law enforcement, fire/EMS, foreign service, intelligence services, DoD contractors – and their immediate families) with me.
Theater is the most imaginative, subversive, creative, and unpredictable performing art. Theater is also a writer’s medium where the script is sacrosanct. It demands real craft. And those that can master it can write anything. It is the perfect hothouse in which to develop writers from the veteran community. Yet, veterans may be the most underrepresented group in American theater.
Through playwrighting competitions, Resident Artist grants, and audio plays, I established VetRep to change that. All of our playwrights will be veterans or their immediate family members. We’d like to do the same with our employees.
Why is it so important to bring veterans into the theater?
Veterans have been exposed to danger, austerity, stress, task saturation, exhaustion, trauma. They have seen humanity at its most extreme – war, famine, drought, disease. They have experienced the emotions that come with such extremes – violent terrors, quiet fears, the weight of loneliness. Then there’s the dark humor, discipline, self-doubt, the giddy camaraderie. In short, veterans have a wealth of experiential knowledge that can make for wildly unpredictable, compelling, entertaining theater.
At VetRep, we don’t care what genre our Resident Artists write in. We don’t care what subject matter they choose to write about. All we care about is that they are a veteran and that they are ridiculously talented.
By supporting our Resident Artists with professional, Equity actors and a world-class performance space, we believe we will produce funny, shocking, heterodox, surprising theatrical work that you won’t see anywhere else. It took us twenty years to get here. But with your help, we believe we’re creating a destination event space, a creative hub and a local institution that merges the sacrifices, the wisdom and the accumulated experience of our veteran community with breathtaking civilian artistry.
Thanks for taking the ride with us.
Christopher Paul Meyer, Artistic Director