VICENZA, Italy – Months of filming and editing paid off for Sgt. 1st Class Alexander Henninger, American Forces Network Vicenza’s station manager, as he tirelessly worked to share stories behind the Soldiers’ Theatre production of “Clue.”
The documentary “Behind the Curtain,” is a 41-minute look into the lives of Soldiers, civilians and family members who made up the cast of the 2022 production. Dozens of community members at U.S. Army Garrison Italy attended the Aug. 27 premiere. The film features the hard work, time and effort required to put a show together. The audience gets to see auditions, pre-production, behind the scenes and performance clips. They follow the team of performers from rehearsals to Installation Management Command Europe TOPPER Award ceremony.
“I found the documentary to be incredibly impressive,” said Chandler Rand, who was in the premiere audience. “It is apparent the amount of care that was taken into creating a high-quality piece that seamlessly threads together diverse yet relatable stories from members of our community.”
Shortly after Henninger arrived in October 2021, the three-time Emmy-Award winner – who also has Telly Awards – performed with his wife on stage as part of the holiday show.
“What a phenomenal experience that was after coming to a new community,” Henninger said.
One evening after rehearsal, Henninger mentioned to Soldiers’ Theatre Director Jerry Brees that he was interested in putting together a documentary film highlighting the entire production process of a play.
Brees loved the idea and immediately agreed.
“The backstage story is so fascinating,” said Brees, who was intrigued at the idea. Brees thought it would be an interesting way for audiences that normally only see a finished production, to have the opportunity to see the other side of the stage and the hundreds of hours and countless volunteers it takes to bring the show to the stage.
“Seeing what is necessary to produce a play on-stage is eye-opening for anyone who isn’t involved with the process. Alex’s [Henninger] work is incredible, and honestly, there are not enough superlatives available to describe what he accomplished,” Brees said.
Since the next show was “Clue”, Henninger started filming just after the holidays.
“My professional career is storytelling, video storytelling,” explained Henninger.
In making this film he thought other people could not only find ways to relate, but even inspire them and encourage them to come out and join the Soldiers' Theatre Entertainment Program.
He also knew that the project would be a huge undertaking. He shared with his wife how it would be months of filming, long hours - because rehearsals are at night - and editing every evening after work and weekends.
“My wife said ‘Go for it’ and I made the decision to see if my crew at AFN Vicenza was interested in the project,” he said.
The AFN Vicenza team was enthusiastic of this first of its kind production in the Vicenza military community. They contributed to the project, which included almost 2 terabytes of footage and 50 separate interviews with an average of 30 minutes.
“Film making is a team effort,” explained Henninger who thanked his crew at the premiere introduction.
“The only reason it turned out at all is because of tireless volunteer effort. I also have to absolutely thank my wife, not only for encouraging me in the first place, but for basically becoming the single mom for our children for the time it took to edit until last week,” he said.
The future of the 41-minute documentary may include participation in some film festivals.
“The documentary has the potential to reach such a global audience and give them a unique insight into an aspect of military culture and lifestyle overseas that they probably didn’t even realize, such as having a playhouse on your base overseas, and what it actually does for the people of the community,” added Henninger.
Soldiers’ Theatre always offers volunteer opportunities to everybody in the community. The next production is “Compulsive Laughter,” a collection of short adult comedies that will be performed between the end of September and mid-October.
“We are excited that Alex will be switching roles for this particular production and will be appearing as a member of the cast,” said Brees.