Story by Karen Iwamoto on 02/01/2018SCHOFIELD BARRACKS About 200 service members and their families were treated to an intimate reading of the play "True West" by some of television and film's top actors, here, Jan. 25.
David Harbour ("Hell Boy," "Stranger Things"), Jimmi Simpson ("Westworld"), Taye Diggs ("Empire," "Brown Sugar") and Frances Conroy ("Six Feet Under," "American Horror Story") performed the free reading, which drew laughter and cheers, at the Tropics Recreation Center.
Impressively, they did it without props, costumes, sound effects or set design. The pared-down show featured the actors seated on foldout chairs on a bare stage, a mere few feet away from the audience, with their scripts open in front of them.
It was theater stripped to its essence; the performers had nothing but themselves to fall back on.
Even more impressive, it was the first time the four actors had performed the script together.
In the end, they received a standing ovation.
"I didn't expect it to be so funny," said Classic Akiona, a specialist in the 25th Infantry Division Artillery. "When I had heard about this, I thought it was going to be serious. But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed how they portrayed their characters."
Her husband, Albert Akiona, agreed.
"I loved the way they both woke up drunk the next morning and had switched personalities," he said of the main characters, two brothers portrayed by Simpson and Harbour, "and how they became the characters they were trying to write about, two guys who were being chased."
"True West" by American playwright Sam Shepard follows the story of brothers who took different paths in life only to discover they may have more in common than they thought. It explores family dynamics, changing times and class in America.
Michelle Huff, spouse of a Navy veteran, also enjoyed the performance.
"I do think it's important to have theater available to service members," she said. "I think a lot of people here would not have otherwise gone to a play if this hadn't been made available."
The actors also expressed enthusiasm for the performance. During a question and answer session after the reading, Diggs told the audience, "We are very touched and emotionally invested in this performance, too. It's really great just to be in front of you and just put faces to the amazing things you do for this country. So this is just a tiny piece of what we can do to show our appreciation."
After the Schofield Barracks reading, he, Conroy, Harbour and Simpson remained for nearly an hour after the show to chat with fans and pose for photos. They also performed "True West" at Bellows Air Force Station on Jan. 26 and at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Jan. 27.
Arts in the Armed Forces
The "True West" readings were sponsored by Arts in the Armed Forces, a nonprofit cofounded by actor and former Marine Adam Driver ("Star Wars," "Girls"). AITAF's mission is to provide quality theater performances for active duty service members, veterans, military support staff and their families, free of charge, at military installations across the United States and overseas.
Driver has said he was inspired to start AITAF because he felt that theater could give troops a way of expressing their emotions and communicating their experiences to a broader audience.
After leaving the Marines, Driver attended Julliard School, where he initially worried his military background might alienate him. He eventually found that theater gave him a way to connect and express his feelings.
In addition to staged performances, AITAF also recently launched The Bridge Award to recognize a playwright of outstanding talent in the U.S. military. It consists of a $10,000 prize and a reading of the winning work. It is open to cadets, active duty service members and veterans.