22 interviews with veterans and veterans’ family members from the Eugene area were the basis for “Telling, Eugene.” These interviews lasted any where from 1 to 7 hours, and all were committed to video.
Of central importance to “Telling, Eugene,” from its inception was that it be a collaborative, community-based effort, the intention being that the process of creating as well as its end product be a bridge between the veterans and their communities. In the interview phase, cameras were loaned and studio time donated. A group of veterans themselves also served as production crew through the 100+hour process of the interviews.
Rayneard and Wei transcribed the video-taped interviews verbatim, and then set out to create a piece of theater taken directly from these transcriptions. Using the structure that they had established in the interviews, beginning with reasons for joining the military, moving through basic training and deployment, and then ending with the return to civilian life, the co-authors created a three-act script comprised of monologues, dialogic and ensemble pieces and sequenced in such a manner as to create arc, momentum and contrast.
While the interviews were being transcribed and transformed into a script by Co-authors Rayneard and Wei, Director John Schmor was putting the veterans through a crash course in performance. Meeting weekly for a term, Schmor introduced the veterans to the fundamentals of stagecraft – a sometimes challenging experience.
Simultaneous to scripting and performance training, a group of volunteers was assembling the logistical and administrative elements of the production: raising funds, putting together a promotional campaign and designing staging, sets, sound and lighting. Again in keeping with a collaborative, community-based model, over $50,000 in cash and in-kind sponsorship was raised from a broad network of offices and departments at the University of Oregon, civic organizations in the city of Eugene and individual donors. In addition, hundreds of hours of time were donated, from set design and building to the creation of a cohesive promotional image to liaising with media, sponsors and volunteers. The promotional campaign included print, radio and television media, and covered everything from a grass roots stenciling program to nationally distributed press releases.
Scripts in hand, the cast and John Schmor took to the stage. The play was scheduled for the Veterans Memorial Hall in downtown Eugene. A stage was constructed, lighting rented, and the cast rehearsed for eight hours a weekend for a month and a half.
On February 8, 9 & 10th, 2008, “Telling, Eugene” played to three sold-out houses in the Veterans Memorial Hall. The 11 young men and women stunned audiences with their candor, intelligence, passion, nuance, respect and dignity. “Telling, Eugene,” garnered local, regional and national media coverage, the attention of veterans groups and the interest of theater professionals around the country.
Most importantly, the performers themselves were transformed. Echoing one of his own lines in “Telling, Eugene,” Joshua Coombs offered to Co-author Max his thanks. “You did something Max. You supported us.”