"It’s just me and a trunk on stage. Different items of clothing come out and go back in. A stool comes out, so does a thermos of coffee, a pair of eyeglasses, whatever I need. And, I don’t need a lot. I wanted it to be as pure theater as possible,” said Lang about the play which celebrates the larger-than-life battlefield sacrifices of eight men awarded the nation’s highest honor for valor in combat.
The oral histories of these men are brought to life through Lang’s commanding performance along with a backdrop of video screens, which occasionally evoke the turmoil of combat. He subtly moves through each man’s story with a slight alteration of posture and vocal coloring to suggest a new personality.
“It’s a quicksilver transformation right in front of the audience. In a sense, it turns the whole idea of acting on its ear, because you never want the acting to show,” said Lang.
After a fateful day back in 2003 that set the stage for the book’s transformation into a theatrical piece, the show has since enjoyed a celebrated run on Broadway and in Chicago’s Goodman Theatre before Lang took “Beyond Glory” on a coast to coast tour.
“I played basketball with Larry for years, Sunday morning games where you sometimes don’t know a whole lot about the folks you are playing with,” said Lang.
“One day we were lacing up our sneakers together and I asked Larry what he did. He told me he was the retired managing editor of ‘Parade’ magazine and that he had a book coming out the next month about Medal of Honor recipients,” he added.
Lang, who had a longtime interest in military history, told Smith he would “love to look at it.”
“The following week Larry pulled an uncorrected copy of the book out of his gym bag and gave it to me. That night while reading it, something clicked…..there was just something so authentic in their voices, these firsthand accounts of 24 men talking about who they were, what they did, and how they lived their lives,” said Lang.
“I took the chapter on John Finn, who was stationed at Kaneohe Bay when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and began noodling around with the 25-page chapter. What I did was to turn it into a bouillon cube of theater. Then, the next day I took my written piece to my wife and read it to her at the dining room table. She began to weep, and I knew that I had something. So, I continued to work on it and a piece of theater began to emerge,” he added.
“Beyond Glory” the play presents the stories of eight veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, rendering first and accounts of valor, resulting in the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor.
“I sometimes think the choices of men made themselves and, in a way, they did. I wanted a diverse range of wars and ethnicity of men. I also knew that I needed a sustainable time for the play without an intermission, because once I dive in I don’t come up for air and 80 minutes felt right,” said Lang about whittling down the 24 oral histories to eight for the stage.
The resulting work was one he said that Smith “loved and was delighted with.”
“We have become good friends and Larry has been a great advisor and supporter, and, of course, the play helps him to sell books,” laughed Lang.
As a tribute to fallen soldiers, Lang has performed the show on military bases, and gave a command performance on the floor of Congress with Medal of Honor recipient Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii in attendance.Type your paragraph here.
Stephen Lang and Larry Smith were both in attendance for the premier as well as questions and answers.