ALEXANDRIA, VA – Four artists, three rooms, three paintings, one story equals a deeply-moving, immersive encounter.
On Friday evening, the Principle Gallery on King Street was transformed into a live arts stage. Savage Wonderground presented its first-ever touring performance created by the nonprofit Veterans Repertory Theater Company (VetRep). It gifted the public with an unforgettable theatrical experience which featured powerful poetry readings, spoken word, operatic song, and edgy art. The intertwining thread celebrated the veteran experience through the eyes of local veteran artists.
“What makes a veteran unique is not that they are stronger, faster, better-looking than anyone else, but we are,” joked Founder/Director and military veteran Christopher Paul Meyer as the audience burst into laughter, “It’s the high volume of significant emotional events in a compressed period of time relatively early in someone’s life. That’s drama, that’s understanding the human condition on a gut level and seeing the extremes of humanity. Maybe you are not a talented artist but you know it in your gut. It’s experiential wisdom. Our job is to get it out of your gut in an artistic way. We are veterans here to help you and give you a great night out,” Meyer said in his curtain speech.
He hails from three generations of theatrical performers and opened the night’s performance with a brief pre-show talk introducing the audience to what they were about to encounter. Having been a fledgling director of an off-off Broadway comedy production which had a successful opening weekend, the following Tuesday “a couple of a**holes flew some planes into some buildings in my hometown where my theater was and that ended my directorial career. So I ran from the theater and joined the military right after 9/11, left Afghanistan in October 2020, and got out of the military in February 2021,” Meyer said.
He is passionate in his creation of Savage WonderGround, which provides a multidimensional look into the emotions, struggles, triumphs, hopes, and lives of veterans. The event immersed and seemingly mesmerized the audience as it wound its way through the two townhouses of the Principle Gallery.
Originating from the success of the Savage Wonder Festival, Savage WonderGround was uniquely designed to share a one-of-a-kind, organic experience to the public by featuring local veteran artistic talent. Outstanding performances were given by Placido Domingo protege (and Iraq War veteran) Jesus Daniel Hernandez, poet and USMC veteran Dex, writer and former Army infantryman William “Buck” Bolyard, and the art of military daughter Invader Girl.
VetRep shares all proceeds evenly with the featured artists.
Although they typically perform at their home base “The Parlor”, in Cornwall, New York, this was the first of many future ventures to hit the road, which will bring this unique theatrical performance to different cities.
Considered to be the next stage of evolution in veteran art, the artistic troop expressed gratitude to the public. They repeatedly mentioned how honored and thankful they were to the audience to be able to share the performance.
“At VetRep Theater, we are not here to help veterans. That’s not our job,” said Meyer. “We are veterans that are here to help audiences. We have a lot to offer, and that’s what we want to weaponize, and the particular sandbag we try to fill is your Friday night. That’s where we want to make an impact.”