When her boyfriend became lighting director for the local nonprofit, Heroes Journey, Brianna Clare, founder and artistic director of Theatre Exceptional had no idea it would be lead to a very special collaboration between the two nonprofits.
While Clare works to empower people with disabilities to find pride and their voice through theatre, Heroes Journey strives to give transitioning military a place to tell their stories and communicate their experiences as a means of healing and connection.
“We help to transition military to start their next chapter as civilians,” explained Jamie Dunn, communications director for Heroes Journey.
In the military, when things are difficult, a common phrase is “find better ground.”
Theatre Exceptional has partnered with Heroes Journey to produce Better Ground on November 11th, to give military and their families a virtual showcase for live music, theatre, and combat storytelling.
“We wanted to highlight the connection that could happen when civilians and military come together to promote healing for the nation at large and bridge the gap – military versus non-military or different branches of the military. We want to try to start bringing everyone back together on better ground. We created a safe place where everyone can go to express themselves, be heard, and have a voice, and not worry about the division, negativity, and animosity that’s churning around in the social climate right now,” said Dunn.
“The purpose of the show is to announce that we are opening Better Ground, a black box theatre in Tampa in the next year. One of the theatre goals is how we can benefit the community, work with other nonprofits and theatre organizations to collaborate, and do something really cool for Tampa. Any ticket sales will be divided equally so we can give back to the different veteran nonprofit theatre organizations in our area during Covid times, where everyone is hurting. We want it to benefit the community at large.”
From 7 to 8:30 PM, viewers of the special event will be treated to Veteran actors Scott Mann, Leonard Bruce, Bryan Bachman, and daughter of a Veteran, Ame Livingston, performing military-related scenes from ‘All My Sons’ and ’The Things They Carried.’
Pieces of the original ‘Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret,’ that takes melds different military personnel stories, will be performed. Dunn predicts that viewers might need a moment after the emotional show.
Veteran musician Zeke Vanderpool will perform original music, while combat storytellers Bruce, Chris Vetzel, and Laura Hartman will share spoken word. Special guest Steve Pressfield, author of ‘Baggar Vance,’ The War of Art,’ etc. will read excerpts from his book.
“It’s a montage of all the ways veterans can express their story and will highlight the different shows, performances, and workshops at the theatre,” said Dunn. “Everyone should see this show to understand that when the military comes home, they’re people, and they went through something hard, really traumatic. It molds their personality, and we show them what they are capable of in our community.”
Clare added, “What drew me to Heroes Journey is I saw the same thread in their mission statement. In the disability community, there’s a bit of a divide between people born with their disabilities and those who acquire them later in life. What I’m excited about is they can help us bridge that gap between two demographics of people. Maybe they can learn something from each other and discover common ground. If we can come together with our various resources, maybe we can make that magic moment happen.”
Better Ground is streaming on November 11. Tickets are $10 and available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/better-ground-veterans-day-live-stream-event-tickets-124932142401?aff=Exceptionale. To learn more about the nonprofits, visit https://www.bluebutterflyproductions.org/theatre-exceptional and https://www.theheroesjourney.org