BY KEVIN STEELE –
When Jonathan Juarbe steps on stage in “The Telling Project,” a national project that attempts to deepen audiences’ understanding of those who’ve served in the military, his wife may be as surprised to hear what he says as much as the audience.
“It’s something very powerful for us, and it’s one step in the healing process,” said Juarbe, one of the veterans in the show that has two performances on campus next week. “A lot of the stuff that’s on here, my wife hasn’t even heard about.”
Military veterans at William Paterson University are coming together to share their war stories in the WP Presents production of “The Telling Project.”
Performances, featuring six veterans, are scheduled at the Shea Center for Performing Arts on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 12:30 p.m. and on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in advance of Veterans Day.
The Telling Project was founded in 2008 by Jonathan Wei, a writer, director and the executive producer of the play, according to program’s website. Dr. Max Rayneard works alongside Wei as a co-creator of The Telling Project process. This process includes veterans and military families sharing their story in a video interview. Rayneard then takes those stories and creates a script.
“He’ll take bits and pieces of it and condense it into a certain amount of time for each different veteran,” said Kelly Cole, a military veteran who will perform in the WP production. “He puts it just in the right timing and the right places and it works out.”
Kelly, along with the other military vets in the production, will share details of their experiences, and the struggles that are not always easy to talk about. Some stories will include battles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), being a victim of rape, and dealing with thoughts of suicide.
Many veterans keep these struggles to themselves, said Juarbe, which causes even more problems. This is a catalyst that contributes to the 20 veterans who die by suicide every day, as reported by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs.
The director of the show, Edward Matthews, the artistic director of the University Performing Arts, hopes that those in attendance become aware of what veterans need when they come back home.
“One of the things, especially now, is that we need a better veteran’s organization to service the veterans, and to make sure they are transitioning properly,” said Matthews.
Along with the war stories, the production will include skits and will also portray some physical action, said Charles Lowe, who will be participating in the show, and who works on campus as the director of university police and public safety. This is to help the audience have a better understanding of what it was like for these individuals who served.
Steve Harris, who will be sharing his story, wants to use this platform to prepare the next generation and to pay respect to other military veterans.
“We’re just here to make a difference one day at a time, honoring the ones who came before us, and leaving a legacy for the ones who will come after us,” said Harris.
Performances are scheduled at the Shea Center for Performing Arts on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 12:30 p.m. and Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. The production is free for veterans and for students who have their ID. Tickets for adults are $15; for students without their ID the ticket price is $10.