Helping veterans turn their ‘intense overload of experiences’ into theater

The Telling Project uses the stories of veterans and their family members to deepen people’s understanding of military life by creating a theatrical production based on those real experiences. The national performing arts organization is based in Austin, Texas, but its writers and directors travel all over the country to interview service members.

After choosing six participants in a location, The Telling Project works with them to write a script that reflects their lives. The vets rehearse for several days before performing for a civilian audience. The goal is to bridge those two very different communities.

Recently, The Telling Project worked with veterans in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area. Racheal Robinson is a wife, mother and staff sergeant who is currently serving in the Minnesota Air National Guard. She and five other veterans told their stories at the Guthrie Theater.

“There’s a stereotype of what a veteran should look like. And I think having a very diverse cast helps break that stereotype. That veterans come in all shapes and sizes and all different age groups,” says Robinson.

Since 2008, The Telling Project has produced more than 40 original performances, put more than 180 veterans and their family members on stage and performed in 16 states across the nation.

This story originally appeared on “Minnesota Original”, an arts show produced by Twin Cities PBS. It was produced by Luke Heikkila and edited by Ryan Klabunde. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.