Local soldier performs in Army show
Alexander Rebling, a 2010 graduate of Fairfield High School has summer travel plans that include 39 stage performances at 28 locations in 17 states throughout the next 14 weeks.
Newly promoted Sgt. Rebling in the Iowa Army National Guard, 34th Army Band, is one of 15 soldiers cast in the 2013 Army Entertainment, Soldier Show, “Ready and Resilient.”
He plays guitar, sings and dances in the 75-minute show, described in a press release as, “a song and dance production using music to put an entertaining spin on how soldiers and their families maintain readiness and resiliency.”
Rebling is a student at Northern Iowa University majoring in English education. He’s played trombone in university band and was active in high school musical arts.
“I was in choir and band, served as drum major in marching band, played in jazz band — I participated in all singing groups it was possible for a male to participate in at Fairfield High School,” he said. “I love performing.”
He heard about auditions for the Army Entertainment, Soldier Show and was notified in early January to attend live auditions at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
“I didn’t realize how big this was until I got to Fort Sam Houston,” Rebling said. “This is open Army-wide and 400 were competing. I got a little nervous about that. I realized out of the tons of applications, I would be competing against others with the same level or better talent than me.”
Tim Higdon, producer and program manager of the U.S. Army Soldier Show, said Army Entertainment seeks talent representing a cross section of the Army. Auditions are open to officer and enlisted ranks; active duty, Reserve and National Guard.
“New cast members are selected each year,” said Higdon. “Soldiers worldwide submit application packages that include videotapes, biographies, photos and letters of recommendation from their commanders.”
This is the 30th season for the modern Army Soldier Show, which began in 1984, but has roots in Broadway theater as far back as 1917.
To be considered for the ensemble cast, soldiers must have an outstanding record in their units as well as demonstrate musicality, movement, stage presence and versatility, said Higdon.
“Soldiers first, these are artists who have a passion for music, dance and performing, with specialties ranging from information technology to combat medicine,” according to a press release.
Rebling said he was at Fort Sam Houston a week prior to the auditions.
“We did physical training each day, then worked with a choreographer to see if we were teachable,” he said. “We had a vocal teacher working with us to see if we could work in a group, perform solo or take a lead.
“The final auditions were on a Saturday. We could choose our type of performance — singing, dancing or playing an instrument. Final selections were made two days later and each of us had a one-on-one meeting on a Monday to find out if we made it.
“I am honored to be chosen,” said Rebling. “Only 15 performers were picked. I’m honored to represent the Army.”
In addition to being scored by a panel of judges on showmanship, talent and poise, the finalists must pass physical training and drug tests, uniform inspection and a dance audition, said Higdon.
A crew of seven audio and lighting technicians also is selected from soldiers’ applications.
“The new cast and technical crew spend six weeks at Joint Base San Antonio rehearsing under the direction of an artistic staff, including a production manager, artistic director, music director and a choreographer,” said Higdon. “The soldiers’ 12-to-16 hour days begin with military formation and include aerobic workouts, vocal coaching, dance training and learning how to assemble and dismantle the stage trusses.
“The technical crew learns computer-based lighting and audio and video functions while designing the lighting, sound and special effects.”
The self-contained ensemble will travel by bus beginning Tuesday — first stop Fort Sill, Okla., with two performances on May 9 and 10. The shows are open to the public at no charge. From Oklahoma, the show goes to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
“My grandparents are planning to attend the show in New Mexico,” said Rebling.
Next on the tour is Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas, for two shows, Fort Huachuca in the southern mountains of Arizona, Fort Irwin the National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert and Fort Carson, Colo. That covers the month of May.
In June, both Army installations in Kansas — Fort Riley, nearly a 6 hour drive from Fairfield, and Fort Leavenworth, the closest location to Fairfield at just under 4.5 hours drive — will host the show June 1 and June 3, respectively. Then it’s on to the east coast, with performances in Buffalo, N.Y., Fort Hamilton, N.Y. and the Army birthday event June 14 in New York City. The rest of June will be spent performing in Maryland and Virginia.
Two more of the closer performances to Fairfield — each about a 5.5-hour drive — are a July 4 performance at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., followed by a July 11 show at Fort McCoy, Wis.
“My parents [Russell and Karla Rebling] are planning to attend the closer shows,” said Rebling.
From the Midwest, the tour treks south the remainder of July, visiting Kentucky’s Fort Knox and Fort Campbell; Redstone Arsenal, Ala.; Fort Jackson, S.C.; and Fort Gordon, Ga.
August shows are scheduled in Fort Rucker, Ala.; Fort Polk, La.; Fort Hood, Texas; and back to Fort Sam Houston for two final performances, Aug. 12 and 13.
“After the final performance, I’ll return to Iowa,” said Rebling. “I’m enrolling for classes at UNI right now.
“Performing in the cast has me thinking about working with the Army Entertainment program, but I’ll finish school first,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to all the places we’ll be going,” Rebling said. “For a farm boy from Iowa, I haven’t traveled much. I’m also looking forward to telling the Army story.”
Each year’s show has a different theme. This year’s theme, “Ready and Resilient,” provides the Army’s story about soldiers and their families, said Victor Hurtado, the show’s artistic director.
“We took a look at what the Army says makes troops and their families ready and resilient, and what mechanisms the country and the world in general are offering to help with resilience,” said Hurtado.
Some of the mechanisms he refers to include day-to-day things deployed soldiers do to get through the day — and then the next day.
“There’s got to be a way to recharge quickly because deployment doesn’t leave a lot of time,” he said. “What are some of the mechanisms? … camaraderie, playing a song with other soldiers, interacting in some group activity, communicating with loved ones back home.
“Resilience is about the ‘now’ and readiness is about getting ready for the future,” said Hurtado. “We’re not painting a rosy picture, but resilience is about moving on.”
The show is very much about illustrating not only ways to ‘get away’ and be resilient, but also illustrates the overarching solutions to certain issues facing the military today, he said.
“We’re also going to be entertaining,” Hurtado said.
In a press release, Hurtado said the show holds something for everyone.
“Tributes are paid to the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 75th anniversary of ‘God Bless America,’ the 50th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War and the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War,” he said.
“Every American, military-affiliated or not, will be able to see themselves in the show,” said Hurtado.
He promises a variety of vocal, instrument and characters throughout the performance. After working with the soldiers nearly two months, Hurtado praises the show’s cast.
“I think almost every single one of them understands what it is to leave everything you have on that stage,” he said. “And then, get back on the bus and be resilient, so you have more to leave at the next place.”
In April, the cast performed three shows at the historic Fort Sam Houston Theatre.
“I was euphoric being on stage with all those people in the audience,” said Rebling. “After so much work in an empty theater, it was great to perform with an audience. And the audiences were so receptive, it inspired us to do our best.”
A detailed show schedule is available online at www.armymwr.com/soldiershow.