(Photo credit: Alissa Moore. Pictured:Mark Smith, executive director, Blue Star Families; Teresa Eyring, executive director, TCG.)
On Friday, September 28, a press conference was held at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI, to launch the Blue Star Theatres program which recognizes the profound contributions of service families and seeks to build stronger connections between theatres, military families and their communities.
The press conference was hosted by Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) a former Army Ranger and Chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee which provides annual appropriations for the NEA. “I salute the NEA, Blue Star Families, TCG and participating theatres around the country for putting military families center stage and spearheading this new program,” said Senator Reed.
Teresa Eyring, executive director, TCG, launched the new initiative with a moving invitation, “These efforts don’t just give back a small measure of what we owe our service members, but also mutually strengthen our theatres and communities. In an age of political spin and polarization, these soldiers have something to teach us about civic duty and citizenship. The stories they carry with them are stories we need to hear. Theatre is about bearing communal witness, and we are here today to say to all service members and their families: our ears, our stages, our houses, are open. Please, come in, so that we may better witness, celebrate and support the days of your returning.”
Mark Smith, executive director, Blue Star Families, applauded the partnership with TCG and the expansion of the Blue Star arts programming that is being made available to military families.
Rocco Landesman, chairman, National Endowment for the Arts was on hand to trumpet the launch of Blue Star Theatres, “Theatre Communications Group’s executive director Teresa Eyring — and indeed the entire theatre community — have responded to The White House’s call to action through Joining Forces, which is our national effort to come together in support of our country’s military community.”
Blue Star Theatres funding was generously provided by MetLife Foundation, which was represented by Dennis White, president and CEO, who acknowledged that “Opening doors to theatres across the country is a wonderful way for members of our military and their families to share time together and experience the arts in their communities. The Blue Star Theatres program is also a way for MetLife Foundation to say ‘thank you’ to our servicemen and women.”
Governor Lincoln Chafee made a surprise appearance and spoke about the commitment of Rhode Island arts organizations to the Blue Star arts programs. Major General Kevin McBride, Adjutant General of Rhode Island attested to the value and importance of programs for military families under his command and, indeed, to his own family when he was deployed overseas. Michelle Faulkner, Surface Warfare Officers School Command (SWOS) Ombudsman, Naval Station Newport and a military spouse, movingly thanked all partners in making the program a reality.