It is not easy to get up on stage and talk about your life experiences. Sometimes it is quite unnerving being up there alone with just you and your audience.
Richard D. Graham is a United States Marine Corps, Veteran of the Persian Gulf War. In his first foray into the world of theatre, his solo piece What It’s Like? One Veteran’s Tale of Addiction, Survival and PTSD, Graham recounts his experiences as a marine and what happened to him after he got out of the service. His story tells of bouts with alcoholism and his wife cheating on him while he was fighting overseas as well as his brushes with the law in San Diego.
More importantly, his story talks about the nightmares he still has about being over there all these years after he came home and his condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is a condition that anyone can have and it can happen after you are exposed to more than one traumatic event such as war or assault.
Graham has been through a lot and I applaud the man’s willingness to get his story out to the public. It is moving and gives us an insight into what our service people have to endure while they are serving and how they have to adjust once they are out.
…inspiring to watch him
Because Graham is not a trained theatrical performer, every once in a while you would see Graham freeze onstage or have to stop for a second to remember which part of the story is coming next. I understand that if you are not use to a theatrical setting this might happen but it did take me out of the story when these moments occurred. Graham’s story is an important one and, while I can see why he would want to be the one to tell it, as it is inspiring to watch him let it all out, it might serve the piece as it progresses to have an actor portray him for maximum power.
The show has one more interesting feature. The director Michelle Banks is hearing impaired and there were a lot of patrons in the audience who were as well. To make then show fully accessible, Graham wisely has M. Keith Island, an ASL interpreter, signing the show so everyone can experience Graham’s story.
All in all What It’s Like? One Veteran’s Tale of Addiction, Survival and PTSD is a powerful and often touching story of soldier’s struggle to regain his life after serving his country. You have to applaud Graham for his gumption and willingness to get up there and pour his soul out. Here’s hoping as the show progresses he will let other performers have the chance as well so his story can reach an even wider audience.
Running Time: 60 minutes with a short talkback following.
What It’s Like? One Veteran’s Tale of Addiction, Survival and PTSD plays through July 27, 2013 at Goethe Institute – Main Stage, 812 7th Street NW, in Washington, DC. For performance times and to purchase tickets click here.