Ac­tor tells Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ents’ sto­ries

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SUNDAY LIFE - BY BRANDY MCDON­NELL Fea­tures Writer bm­c­don­nell@ok­la­homan.com

From orig­i­nat­ing the role of hard-nosed Col. Nathan Jes­sup in the Broad­way pro­duc­tion of “A Few Good Men” to play­ing cold­blooded Col. Miles Quar­itch in James Cameron’s se­quel-spawn­ing block­buster “Avatar,” Stephen Lang has taken on many mil­i­tary men in the course of his ex­ten­sive act­ing ca­reer.

But with his long-run­ning one-man show “Be­yond Glory,” Lang, 66, em­bod­ies eight Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ents in about 80 min­utes, go­ing be­yond the acts of valor that led them to re­ceive the high­est per­sonal mil­i­tary dec­o­ra­tion awarded to U.S. ser­vice mem­bers.

“The ac­tion for which these in­di­vid­u­als re­ceived the Medal of Honor is kind of the peb­ble in the pond of their life, and it re­ally is a small but very, very,

very sig­nif­i­cant part of their story. But the rip­ples sort of tend to go back to their child­hood, and then they go for­ward and in­form the rest of their life,” Lang said in a re­cent phone in­ter­view. “Cer­tainly, the event for which they re­ceived the Medal of Honor is part of ev­ery piece that I do — that would be ob­vi­ous — but re­ally there’s far more to them. You’re re­ally telling life sto­ries when you do.

“And the way I ap­proached it was that each of these sto­ries, it’s like, they’re like bouil­lon cubes of drama that if you just sort of add act­ing, it kind of ex­plodes into this hope­fully re­ally tasty soup.”

Af­ter tak­ing three years off from the ac­claimed the­atri­cal piece that he penned and has per­formed for 15 years, Lang is launch­ing a new tour with “Be­yond Glory” that in­cludes what he be­lieves is the first Ok­la­homa City per­for­mance. The Tonynom­i­nated ac­tor will per­form a mati­nee on Vet­er­ans Day, Nov. 11, at the Ok­la­homa City Com­mu­nity Col­lege Vis­ual and Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter Theater.

“Ok­la­homa has the high­est per capita vet­er­ans pop­u­la­tion of any state — around 11 per­cent − and while hav­ing this ex­cep­tional ac­tor tell these sto­ries is mov­ing for all Amer­i­cans, it will have, I be­lieve, a spe­cial res­o­nance for our state's vet­er­ans,” said Don­ald Jor­dan, found­ing artis­tic di­rec­tor of Ok­la­homa City Reper­tory Theatre, which is co-pro­duc­ing the show with OCCC.

Us­ing ne­glected mus­cles

Jor­dan said he has been try­ing to bring Lang and his one-man show to Ok­la­homa City for years, but film­ing on the “Avatar” se­quels made sched­ul­ing a chal­lenge. Lang is sched­uled to reprise his role in all five planned films.

“The colonel does go through lots of changes. He has lots of choices and op­por­tu­ni­ties … but on pain of death I can­not re­veal any­thing,” he said. “It’s a mat­ter of record, it’s a spe­cific fact, that Jim Cameron cast me in ‘Avatar’ be­cause of ‘Be­yond Glory.’ … I had no idea that I would do it as many times, that I’d re­turn to it as many times as I have, or that we would make a film out of it — or that it would bring me the in­cred­i­ble ben­e­fits that it has.”

He adapted “Be­yond Glory,” which was made into a 2015 film, from Larry Smith's 2003 book of the same name, a col­lec­tion of about two-dozen oral his­to­ries by Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ents who served in World War II, as well as the Korean and Viet­nam con­flicts.

“These eight sto­ries re­ally did go straight to my heart, and maybe I kind of in­tu­itively un­der­stood how they needed to be dra­mat­i­cally treated. Which is not to say there weren’t oth­ers there, be­cause I did treat­ments on a num­ber of other in­di­vid­u­als in the book. But ul­ti­mately in con­struct­ing the show … I wanted dif­fer­ent wars to be rep­re­sented; I wanted dif­fer­ent ser­vices to be rep­re­sented; and I wanted a real cross­sec­tion of Amer­ica to be rep­re­sented, which en­com­passes dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties, dif­fer­ent col­ors, as well,” he said.

The pro­lific ac­tor— who has earned more than 130 screen and stage cred­its in the past four decades, in­clud­ing up­com­ing film roles in the movie ver­sion of “Mor­tal En­gines,” the “Rogue War­fare” tril­ogy” and the “Avatar” se­ries — said he has per­formed “Be­yond Glory” be­tween 400 and 500 times in the past 15 years, with au­di­ences rang­ing from de­ployed ser­vice­men and women to Broad­way the­ater­go­ers.

“I was ac­tively look­ing for some­thing. I felt like a lot of my cre­ative mus­cles were at­ro­phy­ing in a way, and so I just was driven to do this thing and then found my­self turn­ing down other things be­cause I’d grown com­mit­ted to this,” he said.

“But now I’ve taken three years off, I re­ally have to re­learn it in a way, and so I’m cu­ri­ous my­self to see what the dif­fer­ences are. … It’s like re­ally flex­ing theater mus­cles that I have not used in sev­eral years.”

[PHOTO PRO­VIDED]

Stephen Lang will per­form his one-man show “Be­yond Glory” on Vet­er­ans Day, Nov. 11, Ok­la­homa City Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s Vis­ual and Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter Theater.

Stephen Lang will per­form his one-man show “Be­yond Glory” on Vet­er­ans Day, Nov. 11, Ok­la­homa City Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s Vis­ual and Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter Theater.

[PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED]

Stephen Lang will per­form his one-man show “Be­yond Glory” on Vet­er­ans Day, Nov. 11, Ok­la­homa City Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s Vis­ual and Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter Theater.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.