Interview: Douglas Taurel on Creating His Solo Show, ‘The American Soldier’

Taurel has created his own solo show called 'The American Soldier' and we talked about creating the show and more!

Douglas Taurel

Actor Douglas Taurel has written some great columns for Daily Actor (check them out here) and now, we turn the tables around and chat with him. He’s just created his own solo show called The American Soldier and we talked about creating the show and more!

Tell me a little bit your training as an actor up until now

I studied acting at the University of Mississippi, better known as Ole Miss. I was a double major in Acting and Business. However the foundation of my acting training was with my mentor Wynn Handman. His class was an amazing place to work on plays and create characters. He always emphasized and encouraged us to focus on character work first. Which is why so many solo show artist have come out of his classes. Most notably are Eric Bogosian and John Leguizamo but many of his students have gone on to create amazing solo shows.

What made you decide you wanted to create this show?

Well as an actor I am always looking for ways to tell stories and to create and open doors for myself.  So I thought a solo show was a great vehicle for me to do that. I am very fascinated by history and the wars that have shaped America, so choosing to share stories of veterans and their journeys in war connected to me.  I also wanted to give back in some way.  I feel that the intense sacrifices that veterans and their families have made can never have enough awareness.

What do you want the show to tell the audience? 

Well the two major themes that I try to touch upon are PTSD and the sacrifice soldiers and their families make for the country.  I have never served in the armed forces but I have a sister in the army, two nieces who have done tours both in Afghanistan and Iraq and a nephew who is going through boot camp to become a Marine.  I hope audiences come away with a sincere admiration and appreciation for the sacrifices our servicemen have given for our freedoms.

What is it about creating your own show that is appealing to you?

Well,  I think the challenge of it is very appealing. I mean, it’s the truest form of story telling . It just you up there and no one else for 50 to 60 minutes. It’s a really marathon of an event as an actor.  It also give me the opportunity to work on the stage which is my true passion and what my training originally is as an actor

What is the process you went through to get to this point?

I started creating this show about 8 years ago, I know a long time. I would go to the NY public Library and research books that contained letters from all of the different wars. You don’t know how much research there is on war until you start doing the research. It’s like trying to count all the stars in space.  Needless to say the research was intense and immense.  Then I took a few playwriting classes to help me understand the fundamentals of writing and took a solo show workshop class taught by Matt Hoverman. He helped me to start forming the volume of material into a workable script and taught me how to take some literary license with the letters.
How did you pick your director?
Well I had been on a long search looking for a directors that understood me and the piece. It wasn’t until my friend Daniela Mastropietro referred me to Padraic Lillis, that I knew immediately that he was the right director for me and my show. He also has an unbelievable amount of experience directing solo shows.
What is the the biggest challenge of producing a solo show? 

Creating the script and staying committed to what you have set out to do. Since it’s your writing that you are trying to create the show with, doubt seeps in and makes you want to quit. Our minds can get pretty negative so staying disciplined and staying positive can be challenging.  You really have to look for inspiration to help keep you motivated.  The challenge is great but it is also without a doubt the most rewarding.

What was your biggest inspiration for the piece? 

Seeing a video of an Iraq veteran who had served 3 tours in Iraq and was dealing with severe PTSD. He wouldn’t play with his son anymore and his son was extremely sad that his dad would not play with him. It broke my heart and I felt great empathy for that boy,the family and for what they had lost.  As his son said in the video – “My dad’s home but he really isn’t and it sucks!”

Do you have any advice for other actors thinking about producing a solo show? 

Just do it! Don’t think about if it will be good or not, that is not for you to decide. Your job is to simply get it done and to stay focused  on what you want to create.  Break things down into small bite size tasks and the project will slowly come to life.  Get help where you need it and ignore your negative thoughts. It’s natural to be negative and you have to remind yourself that being negative is just a part of the process.  Also make a schedule for the writing and learning you need to get done. Scheduling things into your calendar is critical to keeping you on track and committed.

You are taking it to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – why did you choose that Festival?

Because I had such great success taking True West there that it just felt natural to go back as a producer and as an artist. And if you have not been to the Edinburgh festival fringe festival, I would strongly recommend it.  The festival takes over the whole city and there are hundreds and hundreds of shows. It truly is inspirational to see so many artist create theater and to be part of the whole energy. You will be so inspired to create.

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