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Telling Project Gives Voice and Stage to Veterans

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 11:51am | By: Ashlea Maddox

The University of Southern Mississippi and Pearl River Community College, in conjunction with the Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC), will partner with The Telling Project to present “Telling: South Mississippi” in Hattiesburg, Poplarville and Long Beach in November.

The Telling Project works with veterans and military family members across the country to create and present the voices of veterans, providing a unique perspective of the military, veterans' experiences and history.

“Telling: South Mississippi” will open Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Hartwig Theatre on the Southern Miss Hattiesburg campus. Additional performances at this venue are set for Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 22 at noon. On Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m., Pearl River Community College in Poplarville will host a performance in the Brownstone Center. The Southern Miss Gulf Park campus in Long Beach will present performances on Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 14 at noon, with both events to be held in the Fleming Education Center Auditorium.

All performances are free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Those interested in attending any of the Southern Miss performances are asked to reserve their seats by visiting Tickets for the Pearl River performance will be available at the door the night of the event.

“Telling” is a unique performance in which veterans and veterans' family members--after interviews, performance training and rehearsal--stage the "telling" of their stories of life and the military. Sometimes their experiences have to do with their families and home life or small anecdotal things they remember. Sometimes their stories have to do with great tragedy or great accomplishment in war scenarios.

Dr. John Warrick, chairman of the Department of Theatre, said The Telling Project has put more than 140 veterans and military family members on stage in 15 states, raising awareness of military experience on a person-to-person, community level since 2008. 
“Men and women are scheduled to participate in our production - 12 in all. Two of them are World War II veterans, which marks this production as distinct and unique,” Warrick said. “There have been few Telling Project productions that have included veterans of World War II.”

Veterans of the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and more recent American military operations will also share their stories, Warrick said.

“The great part is that we hear the stories and feel the personal connection; these things happen because a veteran is directly in control of his or her story.”

Warrick went on to say this special project is important for Southern Miss, citing the community's strong ties with veterans and active military.

“South Mississippi has a rich military cultural heritage, particularly with Camp Shelby nearby, not to mention the ROTC programs at Southern Miss, as well as Keesler Air Force Base on the Gulf Coast,” Warrick said.

“We have many military retirees in the area, so we think this is an important service for the veterans and their families. On behalf of Southern Miss' College of Arts and Letters and in collaboration between the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses, as well as with Pearl River Community College, we are grateful for the support of this dynamic collaborative event and are proud to host one of the first productions of its kind at Southern Miss.”

Dr. Andrew Wiest, University Distinguished Professor of History and Founding Director of the Dale Center for the Study of War and Society, said stories of veterans lie at the heart of the military experience and are critical to better understanding war. 

“The Dale Center and the History Department are pleased to help support The Telling Project, which serves an extremely valuable purpose in gathering those stories and linking them to the wider community, helping us capture history as it happens,” Wiest said.

Dr. Douglas Bristol, Jr., associate professor of history and Fellow in the Dale Center, said The Telling Project is important because it helps close the gap between veterans and civilians. 

“Less than one percent of the U.S. population has served in the armed services in the last decade, a time when the United States has constantly been at war. Some would argue that you cannot understand the responsibilities of citizenship without knowing something about the experience of soldiers in America's recent wars. The Telling Project seeks to close that gap,” Bristol said.

According to The Telling Project, “Telling” works to provide a deeper understanding of the military and veterans' experience. Greater understanding fosters receptivity, easing veterans' transitions back to civil society and allowing communities to benefit from the skills and experience they bring with them. Through this understanding, a community deepens its connection to its veterans, itself and its place in the nation and the world.
“The Telling Project gives us a unique opportunity to understand and celebrate the experiences of our military veterans. These veterans are giving us the extraordinary gift of sharing their stories, and it is our responsibility to hear them,” said Mississippi Humanities Council Director Stuart Rockoff.

The MHC is a private nonprofit corporation funded by Congress through the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide public programs in traditional liberal arts disciplines to serve nonprofit groups in Mississippi. MHC sponsors, supports and conducts a wide range of programs designed to promote understanding of our cultural heritage, interpret our own experience, foster critical thinking, encourage reasonable public discourse, strengthen our sense of community, and thus empower Mississippi's people with a vision for the future.

“Telling: South Mississippi” has been made possible by generous support from the Dale Center for the Study of War & Society, Partners for the Arts, The Telling Project, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Mississippi Humanities Council and National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information about “Telling: South Mississippi” visit