Theater is a powerful art form that breaks the boundaries of storytelling. It creates a lasting community between what happens on stage and what the audience feels as they experience a story unfolding. Esteemed actor Douglas Taurel knows this fact all too well as a seasoned performer. And as the house lights dim, Douglas elicits meaningful and lasting emotions from his audiences as they experience his award-winning solo show, The American Soldier.
Much like the old Vaudevillian actors did in the old days, traveling the country with their trunks full of costumes and props, Mr. Taurel does the same. He uses the art of theatre and goes from city to city, pulling props out of an old WWII Army trunk, transforming into 14 characters, and sharing powerful stories to help veterans and their families heal.
The American Soldier is a play based on real stories and letters written by soldiers and their families spanning the American Revolution through the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The script seamlessly combines years of intensive research where Douglas Taurel would go to the New York Public Library to read hundreds of letters from every war. The play explores our soldiers’ and their families’ internal struggles as they reintegrate into society after coming home from combat. But the play’s real power is how it highlights the brotherhood these soldiers have shared as they serve the country together. “After a while, they’re not fighting for the country. They’re fighting for each other,” shared Douglas Taurel.
He initially performed The American Soldier in 2015 in front of eight people at the iconic Bowery Poetry Club in New York. He fondly recalls that day as it significantly changed his career trajectory, allowing him to find a deeper purpose for his craft. “It was raining on the Sunday of Memorial weekend, and hardly anyone was there. I knew no one would come, and I didn’t think anyone would get it. It was so freaking hard to get motivated,” recalled the actor.
However, Douglas Taurel found the motivation to press on and perform the play. After the play, he received a standing ovation from all the eight people who were in attendance. He remembers one poignant moment when a Gold Star sibling came up to him in tears to thank him for performing the play. “She came up to me, hugged me, and said, I hope you never stop performing this play because what you are doing is incredibly important,” said Taurel.
Since that rainy Sunday night, Douglas Taurel has traveled to over 40 cities performing his solo show in front of crowds of people. He has performed at the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts, The Library of Congress, Off-Broadway, The American Legion’s National Headquarters, and recently in Champaign, Illinois, where he performed at the iconic Virginia Theater in May. In addition, he earned a nomination for the Amnesty International Award when he performed in Scotland.
Every time he thinks the play has found its ending, he receives more invitations to perform and share its message. At the start of 2022, the play was in Bedford, New York, then Tracy, California, Champaign, Illinois, and a VFW in Madison, Wisconsin.
This November, he will gear up to begin his tour in Charleston, Illinois, at the Doudna Fine Arts Center, then at Monmouth University in New Jersey, and finally at the Performing Arts Center at Kent State University, Ohio. During the last stretch of his tour, he will be stepping in for Stephen Lang’s one-man show Beyond Glory.
“We go on with our everyday lives and have no idea of our soldiers and their families’ commitment and sacrifices. We are responsible for knowing what wounds they carry for us as a society. We at least owe them that much,” said Taurel.