“First, I would like to say…thank you for your service.”
In a UCLA class of 400 students, young women and men raised their hands and stood to ask a question of Tyler LaMarr: Marine, actor and lead performer in Basetrack Live. Before every question, each student expressed their gratitude. “My brother is a Marine and I want to say thank you.”
“Can you tell us, do you ever feel angry about how some people say negative things about the military?”
“How do you feel when actors who have never been in service portray Marines or soldiers in combat?”
“Do you think the government is telling the truth about what goes on over there?”
The questions flowed for two hours, evolving organically into a conversation: thoughts, opinions, fears, hopes. Tyler’s path since graduating from high school was markedly different from the majority of the students he now faced, but any one of them could have been him — they were more similar than different.
“Can you talk about the stress you felt when you came home?”
“I want to ask you about sexual assault in the military – how bad is it, and what can we do?”
“Did you always want to be an actor? How does a Marine get to be an actor?
The room was filled with laughter, hushed silence, intense listening. You could feel the listening. At the end of class, instead of the usual rush of students pushing to leave, hurrying to the next class, hurrying to lunch, hurrying somewhere, they pushed to the front of the room to shake hands with the young man who proudly talked about his choices. One young woman said, “If you had to do it all again, if you could make any choice, would you do anything different?”
“No,” said Tyler. No, I would do it all the same.”
Hundreds of handshakes. Thank you for your service.
CAP UCLA presents “Basetrack Live” tomorrow night in Royce Hall. And our “Peace & Quiet” station on the Royce Quad, will remain up until after the performance. Join us to experience this unique theater work and join the conversation by visiting “Peace & Quiet” or contributing to our Tumblr.