There’s a unique twist to the “Telling: Austin, TX” show running Thursday through Saturday at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. Documenting inspiring, courageous and heartbreaking stories of military life, it features veterans and their family members acting out and explaining each story — a range of their experiences spanning boot camp, war zones and the long wait for deployed loved ones to come home.
The premise of the show, a collaboration between the cultural center, Austin Community College and the Telling Project, an organization that has staged “Telling” performances across the country since 2008, is simple. The eight veterans and their relatives sit in chairs next to each other on the bare, prop-less stage of a black box theater and speak directly to the audience. But the content of the show is far more complex.
A former combat medic in the Army discusses the feelings of inadequacy and doubt she felt when trying to patch up wounded soldiers in Iraq. What if she couldn’t fix them? A former Army National Guardsman talks about serving another tour in Iraq just to avoid re-acclimating to life in the States, while his wife, seated next to him, speaks about dealing with the distance between them during his time in the military. And a Marine Corps veteran, in arguably the most wrenching part of the hour-and-a-half performance, candidly talks about being raped by two other Marines.
The show, which began last week after months of preparation, serves as an up-close peek into a demographic often unnoticed or misunderstood in the United States. If audiences leave understanding just a little bit more about the military and military families, the Telling Project has done its job, Jonathan Wei, the project’s founder and director, said.
“There’s this group of people we have asked to serve and risk their lives for us. We’ve have trained them to do it, but we as a civilian nation don’t fully understand what we are asking them to do,” Wei said.
Wei, who lives in Austin, put together this show in much the same way he produced the others. With the help of two ACC professors, Charlotte Gullick and Christine Dumaine Leche, he found a group of willing military vets and relatives, interviewed them and crafted a script from the interviews. They’ve been rehearsing since early February.
Most of the cast has moved on from the military, but their experiences as a Marine, soldier, National Guardsman or Air Force technician or as a family member of a veteran inform their current work. For example, Leila Levinson wrote a book chronicling her discovery that her father, an Army doctor in World War II, had been one of the liberators of a Nazi concentration camp. The discovery, made after he died, helped her understand who he was.
“There’s a great deal we have to learn from the people we send to fight our wars,” Wei said. “Sending them out to all these countries and then not asking them what they learned when they get back doesn’t make sense. We’re just trying to offer a way to remediate that.”
Events & programs
Monster Loyalty Ball. A celebration of all things Lady Gaga; benefits the Equality Texas Foundation. 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday. Free entry; $25 VIP tickets. Oilcan Harry’s, 211 W. Fourth St. www.monsterloyalty.eventbrite.com.
Fashionably Pink. A fashion show benefiting the Stiletto Stampede organization. 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. $40-$70. W Austin, 200 Lavaca St. www.stilettostampede.org.
AFS Essential Cinema. A screening of “The Sword of Doom.” 7 p.m. Wednesday. $5-$8. The Marchesa Hall & Theatre, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road. 322-0145, www.austinfilm.org.
Bangarang!: “Romeo + Juliet.” Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes star in Baz Luhrmann’s modern-day adaptation of the Shakespeare classic. 7 p.m. Wednesday. $10. Alamo Slaughter Lane, 5701 W. Slaughter Lane. 476-1320, www.drafthouse.com.
Weird Wednesday: “The Man with Two Heads.” 10 p.m. Wednesday. $3. Alamo Ritz, 320 E. Sixth St. 476-1320, www.drafthouse.com.
Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires at Antone’s. Man, Charles Bradley has a great story. An extremely minor R&B journeyman, “the Screaming Eagle of Soul” broke out in 2011, at the age of 63 (!) with “No Time for Dreaming” (Daptone). His new album, “Victim of Love,” arrived April 2. With Paul & the Tall Trees. $16. 8:30 p.m. Antone’s, 2015 Riverside Drive. antones.net.
— Joe Gross
The Wine Down. Music and food happy hours presented by Rex Goliath Wines, partnering with the 2nd Street District and the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. All the artists playing are from the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau “Austin Music Volume 12,” a CD compilation that will be released this spring. The Wine Down is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays on the porch of ACL Live, 310 W. Second St., and is free and open to the public. Through June 5. This week’s performer is Suite 709 with bites from Bonneville. Information: www.acl-live.com.
Also playing: Dale Watson at Strange Brew; the Leavers and Elijah Ford and the Bloom at the Continental Club; Laura Stevenson, Field Mouse and Freddy Fudd Pucker at Mohawk; Love Collector, Sonic Angels, Eets Feats, R.A.D. at Beerland; Metric and the Colorist at Stubb’s; the Mau Mau Chaplains at Flamingo Cantina; the Wine Down with Suite 709 at ACL Live; Leo Rondeau at the White Horse; Jewel at ACL Live; Shakey Graves, Lance Herbstrong, T Bird and the Breaks and Emily Bell at Holy Mountain.
Texas Community Music Festival. Live music by local artists. 6 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Wednesday. Free. The Park at the Triangle, 4700 N. Lamar Blvd. www.tcmfestival.com.
Author appearance. Bestselling author Augusten Burroughs speaks and signs “This is How.” 7 p.m. Wednesday. Free. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. 472-5050, www.bookpeople.com.
Shakespeare in the Park. A performance of “The Winter’s Tale.” 8 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays, through May 26. Zilker Hillside Theatre, 2201 Barton Springs Road. www.austinshakespeare.org.
Pecan Street Festival. An outdoor festival with vendors, food and live music. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Sixth Street, between Brazos and Interstate Highway 35. www.oldpecanstreetfestival.com.
“Sure Thing.” A free weekly comedy show. 8 p.m. Saturdays. 1206 Parkway. 476-1829, www.facebook.com/SureThingATX.
‘Telling: Austin, TX’
What: Central Texas veterans and their families perform their stories of service.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
Where: Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.