Adam Driver Brings Arts to the Military: A Lesson in Language and Self-Expression

In 2015, VICE News followed Adam Driver and a group of fellow actors on a trip to the Middle East. The mission: offering theater to surrounding military bases through an organization called Arts in the Armed Forces.

Driver, a Julliard graduate who has since starred in HBO’s critically acclaimed series “Girls” as well as such films as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The BlackKklansman, Logan Lucky, Silence, and This is Where I Leave You among many others, began as a United States Marine with 1/1 Weapons Company. Throughout his career, Driver has talked openly about his time in the marines as well as the transition from the military to acting, from soldier to civilian, and the similarities between the two seemingly dissimilar paths.

“In acting school, I was really, for the first time, discovering playwrights and characters and plays that had nothing to do with the military, but were somehow describing my military experience in a way that before, to me, was indescribable,” Driver says in a 2016 TED Talk.

In 2008, Driver founded Arts in the Armed Forces, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing “high-quality arts programming to active duty service members, veterans, military support staff and their families around the world free of charge.” Arts in the Armed Forces also aims to bridge the divides between “the world of the arts and the world of practical action.”

“We decided to introduce this project where we introduce the military to the theater community and vice versa,” Driver says. “We’re hoping to show that language is a powerful tool, that self-expression is a powerful tool.”

What Driver and Arts in the Armed Forces demonstrates is the inherent need for artistic forms to establish connection or serve as an outlet to convey emotions, whether it be through painting, theater, music, or writing. This demonstrates the inclusivity that the arts has across all genders, races, sexualities, occupations. There is no limit to who is capable of self-expression. There is no limit to how language can impact another human being.

For Driver, the arts and the theater gave him a place and a way to funnel his feelings and his emotions into a constructive, creative, expressive outlet. The arts provided Driver with an expressive language which he, in turn, has encouraged through performances organized by Arts in the Armed Forces. As Driver explains, the arts and his organization offers audiences with a “new means of self-expression,” a vocabulary, and relatable, human characters to carry with them.

Though Arts in the Armed Forces centers on performance art, it is important to remember the artistic language is present in all forms so long as the form allows a person an outlet to expel what is inside themselves. As writers, we express through the written word. It is our escape, our voice, our platform, and our outlet.

Driver believes, “No time in anyone’s life is that bad you can’t place a value on the arts.”

The video below explores Arts in the Armed Forces (joined by Driver, Joanne Tucker, Natasha Lyonne, Eric Bogosian, Peter Scolari, Sasheer Zamata, and many more) experience in the Middle East delivering on-base entertainment. Driver also delivers an emotionally charged monologue from the 1976 play “Curse of the Starving Class” by Sam Shephard.

by Carlie Sisco

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