HOUSTON (FOX 26) - There's an extraordinary show being put on right in here in Houston. Military veterans are taking to the stage and sharing their astonishing stories. It's a special and powerful project.
"I'm in this locked down psychiatric mental institution,” explains U.S. Army Veteran Valerie Kim James from the stage. James is practicing a performance. "I started taking apart his body and breaking him,” she reveals in another part of the play but this veteran isn't an actress.
James is among several military veterans taking part in a compelling project.
"I started hearing voices. They told me I'm so useless. I should just kill myself,” James continues.
James, one military spouse and seven more military veterans from Houston are taking to the stage for a show like none other. ”As a healing process for me because I still deal with what happened to me on a daily basis. I still have nightmares,” reveals U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Melissa Massey. Massey and James are just two of the cast members rehearsing real life lines to put on one powerful production.
"In 1997 I was raped in the Marine Corps. I never told anyone,” says Massey. "I continue to go to counseling every week. I deal with PTSD and unhappiness on a daily basis. When we first started rehearsal I was crying every single time,” she adds.
The non-profit group The Telling Project uses theatre to allow local vets to share their stories. "Military veterans are interviewed. Those interviews are transcribed and shaped into a performance script,” explains The Telling Project Writer and Producer Max Rayneard.
Veterans say it's healing to, not only, say the words but to have an audience care enough to listen. "Going to funerals, I can't because it means nothing to me or it means too much to me because there's so much death all the time. You're altered for life,” James says.
"Literally before this show I didn't get out of bed for two weeks,” admits Massey “I have intimacy issues. I don’t like small spaces I can’t quickly escape. I don’t like getting in this elevator at night”.
James says because military training teaches how to be violent without a conscience many come out of the military lacking emotion and the ability to experiences feelings normally. She says she once found a friend deceased while on vacation. He was naked, cold, wet and rigor mortis had set in. James says while most were “freaking out” she simply began to break his bones to remove his corpse which was lodged between the sink and the toilet.
"I was homeless twice. Unfortunately it's that part of the military that cuts your emotions off. It meant nothing to me. Maybe I was trying to achieve death by homelessness,” says James.
These military heroes are telling stories from the heart that many of their family members have never even heard. The show kicks off Friday, March 25, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. at Alley Theatre. You can also catch it Saturday and Sunday at 4:00 p.m. and again the following weekend April 1 to 3rd.
The telling project will put on twelve shows across the country this year. The show is funded by the Bob Woodruff Foundation so tickets are absolutely free but you do have to call ahead and reserve your tickets.
"Everyone should attend. It gives you access to the most beautiful human experiences and the most painful human experiences and at the heart of it is service,” says Max.