Tuesday, 14 July 2015

American Dramaturgy: Douglas Taurel @ Edfringe 2015

Edinburgh Festival Fringe & How a One Man Show Paints WAR, PTSD and SACRIFICE from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan
 The American Soldier
Accomplished Actor Douglas Taurel Honors Veterans for their Sacrifice
In August, experienced stage, film and television actor, Douglas Taurel, will be bringing the début of his powerful and passionate new solo show The American Soldier to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  

The American Soldier is based on real stories and factual accounts from actual soldier letters written from the American Revolution all the way through current day Afghanistan, and examines the internal struggles and problems that soldiers face when returning home from combat.
The Zoo Southside Studio Theater, Venue 82   Previews: 7th-8th Aug 2015    
Dates: 7th-22ndAug 2015
Time: 19:00 (50min)

The Fringe
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?

Douglas Taurel: I began with an idea. Seeing a video of an Iraq veteran who had served 3 tours in Iraq and was dealing with severe PTSD. He wouldn't play with his son any more and his son was extremely sad that his dad would not play with him. It broke my heart and I felt great empathy for that boy,the family and for what they had lost. As his son said in the video – “My dad’s home but he really isn't and it sucks!”

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?I had such great success taking True West there that it just felt natural to go back as a producer and as an artist. My wife is from Edinburgh so the city in many ways feel like a second home to me. We were both were married at the Royal Lyceum Theater.

I love how the festival takes over the whole city and there are
hundreds and hundreds of shows. It truly is inspirational to see so many artist create theater and to be part of the whole energy. It inspires you to create.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?Well the two major themes that I try to touch upon are PTSD and the sacrifice soldiers and their families make for the country. Though this is an American piece, the stories of these men are just as true for any country who have had men and women in war. I hope audiences come away with a sincere admiration and appreciation for the sacrifices our servicemen and servicewomen have given for our freedoms.

The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?Well every story/letter that is in my show is based on actual letters and accounts that I have researched and collected from veterans and their family members. The stories and letters are collected as far back as the American Revolution and through Afghanistan.

It is extremely relevant today with what soldiers have to deal with when they come home and right now we have a lot of them coming home and having a hard time re-entering civilian live. As one of my characters say: “When you go off to war, you don’t just come back and sit at the dinner table and say I'm home now. It just does work that way. The adjustment is tough, extremely tough!”

What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition? 
A very big artistic inspiration of this show was Stephen Lang who performed in the one man show Beyond Glory on Broadway. In that show he tells the stories of WWII veterans who have received the purple heart. It was a very powerful and honest tales of the sacrifices and heroism that many men made in combat. 

My other inspiration for the show is Wynn Handman, my mentor and the legendary acting teacher in New York. His class was an amazing place to work on plays and create characters. He always emphasized and encouraged us to focus on character work first which is what each story in my show basically is. And why so many solo show artist have come out of his classes, most notably are Eric Bogosian and John Leguizamo.

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?I started creating this show about eight years ago. I would go to the NY public Library and research books that contained letters from all of the different wars. You don’t know how much research there is on war until you start doing the research. It’s like trying to count all the stars in space. Needless to say the research was intense and immense. 

Then I took a few playwriting classes to help me understand the fundamentals of writing and took a solo show workshop class taught by Matt Hoverman. He helped me to start forming the volume of material into a workable script and taught me how to take some literary license with the letters. Once I had the script, Padraic Lillis who is my director in the show, would sit down with me letter by letter, at the rehearsal table until we both understood what each guy was saying and why he was saying. 

We gave value to the words first before we got up and started shaping the show. I believe that was instrumental in helping these men, women and the one child’s story in the show come alive on stage and for the audience.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
I think the role of the audience is simply to listen and have a deeper level of respect and understanding to what our veterans have gone through and go through. The intense sacrifices that veterans and their families make and have made can never have enough awareness.. 

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
Maybe these last three.

What is it about creating your own show that is appealing to you?I think creating a solo show and it’s challenge is very appealing. I mean, it’s the truest form of story telling . It just you up there and no one else for 50 to 60 minutes. It’s a really marathon of an event as an actor. It also give me the opportunity to work on the stage which is my true passion and what my training originally is as an actor.

How did you pick your director?I had been on a long search looking for a directors that understood me and the piece. It wasn’t until my friend Daniela Mastropietro referred me to Padraic Lillis, that I knew immediately that he was the right director for me and my show. He also has an unbelievable amount of experience directing solo shows.

What is the the biggest challenge of producing a solo show? Creating the script and staying committed to what you have set out to do. Since it’s your writing that you are trying to create the show with, doubt seeps in and makes you want to quit. Our minds can get pretty negative so staying disciplined and staying positive can be challenging. You really have to look for inspiration to help keep you motivated. The challenge is great but it is also without a doubt the most rewarding.

Taurel explained, “This is a true work of passion and I deeply hope that audiences will go away with a deeper appreciation of the tremendous sacrifice our servicemen and servicewomen, and their families, have made for our country.”
Taurel received excellent reviews for his performance as George in Of Mice and Men, “Douglas Taurel is a fine actor” (New York Times) and “Douglas Taurel creates a multi-layered George that gives way movingly”(Backstage). He also received 5 stars for his performance of True West at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, performing both roles of Austin and Lee on alternate nights, "truly perfect moments, including a moving speech from Douglas Taurel” (Three Weeks Daily).
Taurel’s screen credits include playing tough and edgy characters in television programs including Nurse Jackie, Damages, The Americans, Person of Interest, Blue Bloods and The Following. His recent film credits include a supporting role in the 2015 feature film “The Cobbler,” starring Adam Sandler and Dustin Hoffman. 
The performance will take place at the Zoo South Side Theater from August 7th-22nd at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and will be directed by Padraic Lillis who was recently named to the Indie Theater Hall of Fame and Indie Theater Person of the Year in New York.   

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