Star Wars’ Adam Driver Brings Theater to the MilitaryJanuary 9, 2016
Adam Driver stands at an imposing 6’3, he’s broad shouldered and well postured. His presence Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens cast an intimidating shadow, portraying the unstable villain hellbent on following his grandfather’s legacy. Driver is becoming a household name for his work in the film, and his performance is generally lauded as deserving so.
As Driver’s face, or rather cloaked figure pops up on your news feeds and dashboards due to Star Wars insurgency, there is more to the man then the press has informed us of. In fact, Driver’s Hollywood success story isn’t like most, and it’s this part of the story that is worth being told.
You may have seen Driver on your screens before, on HBO’s Girls or in Steven Spielberg’s epic Lincoln, and even with his Star Wars cast mate Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, but did you ever imagine seeing him on a USO stage? Before becoming an actor, Driver enlisted in the U.S. Marines. He states he was prompted to enlist soon after the September 11th World Trade Center attacks, and served for 2 ½ years until injuries from a mountain bike accident resulted in an honorable discharge.
But, Driver couldn’t shake his allegiance to his country, and while attending Juilliard for acting he dreamed up of a way to service his fellow Marines. He had realized his transition from military life to civilian life was not simple, and found theater and arts to help him adjust. Driver says it helped him put words to feelings, and that being able to self-express is a powerful tool.
In 2008, Driver and his wife Joanne Tucker began performing for troops at USO’s, bases, and military hospitals, and these performances morphed into his non-profit organization, Arts in the Armed Forces.
AITAF’s mission statement is:
AITAF bridges the cultural gap between the United States Armed Forces and the performing arts communities by bringing the best modern American theater to the military free of charge. AITAF programming accentuates the shared humanity of all Americans by using performance to unite artists and service members and encourage dialogue. AITAF enlists artists of the highest quality and chooses thought-provoking content with an eye to what might speak to this particular audience.
AITAF performs regularly in New York City, but also travels to domestic and international military bases. The organization looks to enrich the lives of active duty personnel, veterans, and military families. The first performance was held in Camp Pendleton, CA in January 2008. Performances are bare, with focus on the material, and Driver has pulled in such actors as Orange is the New Black’s Natasha Lyonne, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ Peter Scolari and Ant-Man’s Corey Stoll. AITAF is also one of the charities supported by Star Wars: Force for Change.
You can learn more and support Arts in the Armed Forces by visiting the website: http://aitaf.org
And, check out this great documentary VICE News produced recently: