For the last three months, four veteran servicemen have been writing and workshopping "Conscience Under Fire," a series of monologues premiering Sunday, April 19 at The Betsy Hotel on South Beach.
The production, funded by the Knight Foundation and presented by Miami Dade College’s MDC Live Arts, is directed by Miami actor/writer/director Teo Castellanos and performed by four veterans who also wrote the show.
“I have been forced to step out of my comfort zone,” says 26-year-old Army vet Allen Minor who recalls a time Castellanos directed him to walk “normally” on stage. Minor couldn’t do it. He found himself practicing at home in front of the mirror.
“And a lot of that may be due to the military,” Minor says. “Because we are told: hold your hand at this angle when you salute, hold your feet at this angle apart, always walk with your left foot first. So you are given that physical structure at all times.”
While there’s some spoken-word and writing experience in the group -- Minor, for example, is in school for creative writing -- none of the four men have any theater experience.
Anthony Torres, 33, worked in mental health services in the Army and helped get this project off the ground. He’s studying social work at Barry University and wanted to encourage fellow veterans to find a creative outlet.
“It’s definitely vulnerability,” says Torres. “But more often than not I think when you’re able to do that you end up better for it on the back end.”
“We’re expressing our vulnerable ability,” says 28-year-old Marine veteran Andrew Cuthbert. “To actually get up on stage and express ourselves and actually show people that, ‘hey, these are my wounds but they’re only scars now.’”
The show is written by its four actors, all vets: Anthony Torres, Andrew Cuthbert, Hipólito Arriaga and Allen Minor.
Teo Castellanos guided the process, telling the men to pull from their own experiences, from interviews, from research and from their imaginations. The final product is a series of monologues split into three sections.
“The childhood, the service and then post-service,” Castellanos says. “I wanted the audience to see the human being and not just the soldier.”
Conscience Under Fire has just one scheduled performance for now: Sunday, April 19 at 3 PM. Admission is free.