In the real-time world of social media, a Marine fighting in Afghanistan learns of the death of his best friend from his wife on Facebook, even though she’s thousands of miles away in Texas and the Marine’s buddy died fighting just over the next hill.

A play about the impact of war on the men who fight it and the families they return to comes to Westbrook on Thursday, as part of the performance series of Portland Ovations. The two actors – one a real-life Marine – spent Tuesday morning at Lincoln Middle School in Portland talking with students about narrative storytelling.

Tyler LaMarr and Ashley Bloom play Cpl. A.J. Czubai and his wife, Melissa, in the multimedia theater piece “Basetrack Live.” The show is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Westbrook Performing Arts Center.

It involves two actors, a live band and images and videos that are projected on a screen above the stage. The Czubais’ story is the centerpiece of “Basetrack Live.” The plot follows the couple from the time of Czubai’s recruitment and enlistment to his service overseas and his struggles to return to society.

The story is propelled by images collected from a Facebook page that Marines used to communicate with loved ones during a deployment in 2010.

Aimee Petrin, executive director of Portland Ovations, booked the show before she knew much about it. The theater company En Garde Arts was still developing the piece when Petrin committed to it. “The fact that it grew out of social media was really interesting to me,” Petrin said. “It’s such an unusual way to inform contemporary theater.”


Petrin’s faith in the show was rewarded when Charles Ishwerwood, theater critic for The New York Times, named “Basetrack Live” one of the 10 best shows of 2014.

LaMarr served two tours in Iraq from 2004 to 2010, and returned home to study theater. The opportunity to portray a fellow Marine was an honor too great to pass up, he told eighth-graders in Antona Briley’s language arts classes on Tuesday. “The American population doesn’t know what the guys on the ground are going through,” he said. “This play offers some perspective.”

Students will study historical monologues this spring when they visit Boston’s Freedom Trail, Briley said. Tuesday’s visit with the actors offered the chance to ask about portraying another person and tips for memorizing lines.

The most important thing, LaMarr said, is to understand the person you are portraying because you need to know enough to feel empathy.

As an example, he told the story of Czubai’s Marine buddy, Ray, who died in service. LaMarr didn’t know Ray, but he feels real emotions every time he comes to that part of the script.

“He was a Marine and he died in combat,” LaMarr said. “I imagine one of my friends still in the Marines who’s over there. That personalizes it for me.”

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