On Thursday, June 18th students, many of whom were veterans, gathered in the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles Theater and were treated to a special early preview of the documentary, Beyond Glory, followed by a Q&A with actor Stephen Lang. In early May, Lang screened the film to NYFA students at the New York City campus where he joined Colonel Jack Jacobs, Chair of NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program, and himself a Medal of Honor recipient.
Beyond Glory is a blending of footage from Lang’s one-man show, cutting across multiple performance venues and incorporating original material shot for the film. In it, the seasoned actor interprets interviews with a number of Metal of Honor Recipients. The result is a moving journey through the experiences of those who have survived some of war’s harshest of circumstances.
“Beyond Glory allows the voices of servicemen to be heard without the filter of the conventions of drama or the prerogatives of deadline-driven journalism. Its sobriety, simplicity and lack of histrionics are the show’s signal strengths.” — Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
As a stage actor of great recognition, Stephen Lang has shaped a formidable career on and off the various stages of the United States and abroad. Though he is arguably most well-known for his acclaimed performance in James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), Lang began his career in theater. Broadway roles include his Tony-nominated performance as Lou in The Speed of Darkness, Happy in the Dustin Hoffman revival of Death of a Salesman, Colonel Jessep in A Few Good Men, and Mike Tallman alongside Quentin Tarantino and Marisa Tomei in Wait Until Dark. The film’s director, Larry Brand, was also on stage to answer questions. NYFA LA’s Veteran Outreach Coordinator, NYFA AFA Acting alumnus, and Navy Veteran Eric Brown moderated the discussion.
The 100-seat theater was overflowing with attendees when Stephen Lang and Larry Brand took the stage to an uproar of applause. It was obvious that Lang was greatly appreciative of the warm reception. He talked with zeal about his experience performing for military and civilian crowds domestically and overseas for almost ten years now. He discussed the differences between performing with a cast of actors versus working in a solo show and jokingly said: “The good part of doing a solo show is I don’t have to rely on the other actor … but then again, the cast parties aren’t as fun!”
There were many acting students in attendance who were curious about techniques Stephen Lang utilized in the film. Lang admitted that he spent most of his time shaping the performances in an audition room at the Actors Studio, which he affectionately calls his “home” in New York. Stephen never relies on one technique, but rather tries something different for each project. Sometimes he’ll find that an approach consistently serves him. The more experience he’s gained, the more basic his approach to acting has become.
During the discussion, the similarities between an actor and a soldier were discussed. Both play a “role.” A soldier’s role includes his or her branch, job, rank, etc. while realizing elements of honor, integrity, and service. Through theater there is the opportunity for healing from the traumas of war, in which the soldier learns to tell his or her story instead of repressing the memory. This seems to be much of the idea behind Beyond Glory—humanizing the hero and helping us to imagine their incredible tales of selfishness and valor.
“As a former US Marine, I thought both Stephen and Larry brought so much truth to the reality of each Medal of Honor Recipient’s experiences,” said Tyler Williams, a NYFA BFA acting student and a veteran. “The Medal of Honor is the pinnacle of one’s military career or existence while at the same time a pebble or ripple in the pond that is their life.”
The New York Film Academy sincerely thanks Stephen Lang and Larry Brand for visiting the College and sharing their experience of creating this tremendous film and piece of American History with NYFA students.
To learn more about Beyond Glory, please CLICK HERE.