Arts in the Armed Forces

Aaron Netsky

While Adam Driver (Girls) was studying acting at Juilliard, he noticed how theatre was helping him with his transition to civilian life after nearly three years as a Marine. He saw that being in a play was similar in certain ways to being in a platoon, mostly the shared purpose that was bigger than each individual. Realizing this connection between his former and current lives, he and his now wife Joanne Tucker founded Arts in the Armed Forces, which brings theatre to service men and women around the world, facilitating dialogue between performers and service members. This past Monday, AITAF presented a reading of Kenneth Lonergan’s playLobby Hero, featuring Driver, along with Francois Battiste (The Normal Heart), Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris), and Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards).

Driver told the audience that instead of explaining why they had chosen Lobby Hero, he would let us consider their reasons for ourselves. There are probably as many theories as audience members. Here is mine: Lobby Hero is about rules and when and whether it is acceptable to bend them. Jeff (Driver), a security officer in an apartment building lobby, was kicked out of the Navy, as he puts it, not for smoking pot while on duty, but for being caught. William (Battiste), Jeff’s boss, has a problematic brother, and is not sure whether or not to lie to back up his alibi when he’s arrested. Bill (Stoll) and Dawn (Brosnahan) are police officers with different levels of experience and different priorities. Bill, on the verge of getting his gold shield, wants to help William, whatever it means, and visits a lover while on duty. Dawn is just starting, shaken by a recent violent encounter, and still idealistic about the letter and spirit of the law.

Jeff, who wants to do something that matters with his life, is trying to make his way in the civilian world after leaving the buttoned-up environment of the Navy. The other three are lost in the uncertainty of the supposed order of that world. Lobby Herohas themes relevant beyond its purpose for the evening, but for Jeff to see how the search for structure goes beyond the Navy, and to interact with the other characters on those terms, seems to go along with AITAF’s mission of facilitating dialogue between the military and performing arts communities. I’ve often heard the statistic that only about 1% of the United States population has served in the Armed Forces, and I met more service members after this evening of theatre than ever before. I was unsure how to interact with them, but after what we had just seen, knowing we were brought together by the same cause, it was easy. The connection that AITAF is nurturing is definitely there.

For more information on AITAF, visit their website at


Aaron Netsky writes the 366 Days/366 Musicals blog at It's almost halfway done, but there's still time to make sure your favorite offbeat or obscure piece of musical theatre is included.