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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Basetrack’ production reveals lives of soldiers

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Photo by Balazs Gardi
Provided A group of photojournalists documented service members in Iraq and Afghanistan using just their iPhones.  

iPhone images snapped by photo journalists entangled in war zones flash on the screen. Live music resonates as the realities of combat and life at home are recounted by a Marine and his wife.
Director Anne Hamburger’s multimedia performance, “Basetrack,” chronicles the firsthand experiences of soldier AJ Czubai, his ex-wife Melissa and the families and fighters within Marine Unit one-eight. Basetrack will complete the second stop on its nationwide tour Thursday in Rudder Theater.
The multimedia performance takes audiences on a journey to alter students’ perspectives, said Cheri Friedman, program coordinator for the A&M Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. The production will comprise of live acting and musical performances incorporating photo and video.
“They’re going to see a firsthand experience of what embedded journalists saw in Afganistan with the Marine Corps, and the communities they interacted with in Afganistan,” Friedman said. “It really is a very strong piece for people to get an experience from. It has such a huge impact that people won’t be able to go away from that not being affected.”
Tyler La Marr has been preparing for the role of AJ since April. La Marr served six years on active duty with two tows in Iraq as a Marine, and has been immersed in the role much longer.
“I feel like any other actor would have had to do a lot more work into the life of a Marine, the discipline, the bearing, the training and everything that goes into being a Marine, and I already had that foundation built inside of me from my years as a Marine,” La Marr said. “All I had to do was dive into the character of AJ and figure out how to tell and honor his story.”
La Marr­ started the Society of Artistic Veterans — a nonprofit for veterans pursuing careers in the arts in New York City — and said the biggest challenge he faced was portraying someone who was still alive.
“After seeing the show a couple of times, [AJ Czubai] was just like, ‘You should be proud of your performance,’ and that was the greatest honor I could ask for as an actor,” La Marr said. “I know I have his support going forward to continue telling his story across the world.”
In 2010, a group of photojournalists decided to document service members in Iraq and Afghanistan using just their phones. The project later became a way for families to communicate with their loved ones and prompt conversation about the impacts and human costs of war.
“It really tells both sides of the story, the show is so well balanced between AJ and Melissa and through the videos and the interviews that they’ve done with other Marines in one-eight,” La Marr said. “They also did interviews with their wives and their mothers so you really get the hardship that these Marines have gone through and the effects that it has, but you also see the effects it has on the family.”
La Marr said many feel the show offers unique insight into a hidden world that is not often depicted in Hollywood and the media.
“I think it’s very important for students to see this because it gives you an inside look at this generation’s war,” La Marr said. “This is really an inside look at the humanity of war because you get a look at these ordinary people who have been put through these extraordinary circumstances and you see how that can affect each person differently.”
Kirsten Pullen, director of AVPA, was a leading proponent for the production visiting Aggieland.
“The producers and agents that we worked with in New York thought that it might be an especially good show for A&M,” Pullen said. “It hit a lot of our arts that we do and because of the military content. Knowing the kind of campus that we have here and the military history, they knew it would be a good fit.”
Basetrack’s content, by nature, prompts thought-provoking discussions that can be found via Facebook and Twitter using #basetracklive.
“The real impetus was to start conversation, to be able to use art, to be able to use theater in this case, to start conversation between people with various experiences with war,” Pullen said.
Friedman encourages students to attend Basetrack to show appreciation for the nation’s armed forces and the families behind them.
“We need to remember that so many people have given up their freedoms, some have given up their lives to make sure that we can live the way that we live,” Friedman said. “This is just one example of what dedication some of our troops have gone through in order to make sure that we could have a good life over here. This is their story.”

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