Adam Driver, AITAF Bring ‘True West’ to Eastern Flank

By Maj. Kevin T. Andersen and Capt. Moriamo Sulaiman-IfelodunJune 14, 2022

(Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of Giles Clarke from Arts in the Armed Forces.) VIEW ORIGINAL

MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU, Romania — Multinational Troops stationed at this enduring outpost along NATO’s Eastern Flank lined up on a rainy Sunday afternoon to enjoy a reading of True West, performed by Arts in the Armed Forces (AITAF) on Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase, Romania on June 5.

Led by co-founder and actor Adam Driver, AITAF sought to bring a free artistic experience to troops along the Eastern Flank to foster resiliency, boost morale, and show the actor’s support for the mission. Driver enlisted in the Marine Corps following the September 11th attacks and credits his time in the military with giving him the tools to succeed in his acting career.

Veteran stage and screen actor Liev Schreiber performed opposite Driver for the performance, portraying two estranged brothers attempting to find connection in Southern California.

“I asked Adam, why do you do this? What is the point of this?” said Schreiber. “And one of the things he said to me that was interesting was that he thought that there are parallels within our [the military and theater] processes. The exact way we work as a team, and how we rely on each other particularly in a bad situation…there are parallels between our work as actors.”

While many senior military veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have fond memories of USO trips featuring visiting celebrities, musicians and athletes, this was the first such visit since the increased troop presence in Europe following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

(Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of Giles Clarke from Arts in the Armed Forces.) VIEW ORIGINAL
(Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of Giles Clarke from Arts in the Armed Forces.) VIEW ORIGINAL

The packed audience of 120 NATO troops were treated to a rare intimate performance of the Sam Shepard play, which saw Driver and Schreiber joined by fellow veteran actors Reg Rogers and Annie Golden.

“I was initially unsure of what to expect, but as the play progressed, I found myself very emotionally invested and began to relate to the conflicts presented within the screenplay,” said Capt. Silver Beaty, Provost Marshal assigned to Area Support Group – Black Sea. “I appreciated being able to imagine my own version of the house as they moved through each scene and realized by the end that I had a vision of the entire stage that didn't include the music stands and tables,” referring to the sparse stage setting necessitated by the limited time to prepare and execute the visit.

A question-and-answer session between the cast and audience followed the True West reading. Troops asked a variety of questions and shared meaningful connections over the parallels of the play to daily life and global events. One audience member asked Driver how he chooses which plays to perform for military audiences.

“We tend to get plays that don’t really have anything to do with the military at all,” said Driver. “I know what it’s like to be in the military, and you can feel that there is a sense of ‘don’t tell me about being in the military, I am in the military.’ Talk to me as a person who happens to be in the military.”

Prior to the performance, Driver and the other actors were able to meet with NATO troops and learn more about the different missions along the Eastern Flank. Despite arriving into a driving rainstorm, he eagerly ran onto the tarmac to jump into the pilot’s seat of a Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jet.

(Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of Giles Clarke from Arts in the Armed Forces.) VIEW ORIGINAL
(Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of Giles Clarke from Arts in the Armed Forces.) VIEW ORIGINAL

Once the rain subsided, the actors had a hands-on experience with a 1st Air Cavalry Division UH-60 Blackhawk and completed their tour with 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, where U.S. Army Ltc. Benjamin Nagy and two vehicle crews welcomed them.

“Briefing the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) was quite interesting,” said Sgt. Dale Ellis, JLTV driver assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. “Especially after seeing Mr. Driver step in the mud to shake our hands, and finding out shortly before their arrival that he was a prior service Marine Motorman.”

“He picked up on the JLTV pretty quick and loved the information on its capabilities, and how its role is everything and more to the eventual replacement of the HMWVV entirely,” said Ellis.