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Q&A: Watch, Listen, and Empathize with Ben Taylor’s Performance in ‘Glory Denied’

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Based on a book by Tom Philpott, Glory Denied is the true story of Colonel Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war. Ben Taylor will be singing the older version of Jim Thompson in Glory Denied.

Pittsburgh Opera’s George R. White studio at 2425 Liberty Ave., will only be hosting four performances, February 23 and 26, and March 1 and 3, 2019.

Ben Taylor sang the role of Brian Castner, a soldier who suffered from PTSD, in last year’s The Long Walk. This season will mark the second time in two years that he has portrayed a character ensnared in the psychological aftermath of war (albeit in a different era: The Long Walk was a modern work and Glory Denied takes place during the Vietnam War.)

How do you relate to your character Jim?

I see a lot of my friends pain after they returned home from war in Jim. I have a lot of Military friends and family, so I empathize with Jim’s struggle to cope with being a stranger in his own land. His sense of loneliness and the pain associated with it is palpable, and all he wants is for the fantasy he dreamed of for so long to be his reality.

Since you are playing ‘Older Thompson’, how do you sync with the younger portrayal of Jim to make sure the transition is accurate?

The great thing about this piece is that we fade in and out of different timelines, so the audience gets to see our movements sync in real time. It’s cool to see what little things Terrence (who’s playing Younger Thompson) does, and how it morphs when I do it!

What do you enjoy best about playing this role?

Dramatically it’s very intense and musically it’s one of my favorite modern opera roles! He’s demanding in what he wants, but he gives you the tools to achieve the goal, and that makes the singer come out of the experience with new knowledge and skill.

What will the audience enjoy most about this production?

I hope that the audience gets cathartic experience out of this piece. It’s gut wrenching and beautiful. I hope it helps people cope with whatever they’re going through, and that it’ll inspire people to reach out and open up to people about their issues. This piece doesn’t make a political stance on Vietnam, it’s really about how two people’s lives were greatly affected by an unfortunate series of events and decisions.

What was the best praise you received from the audience, who watched your performance as Brian Castner in The Long Walk?

Peoples loved my running, which to me was the highest complement I could get! People that know me, know how much running is my least favorite activity!

Pittsburgh Opera presents Glory Denied –The true story of America’s longest-held POW

Quick facts about Glory Denied

  1. There are only four singers in Glory Denied – “Younger Thompson” and “Younger Alyce”, and “Older Thompson” and “Older Alyce”.
  2. Like that of Tom Hanks’s character in the movie Castaway, Colonel Thompson’s return home was bittersweet.   
  3. These will be the first performances of Glory Denied ever in Pittsburgh.

Ticketing Information

  • Single tickets are $40. They are available online, by phone at 412-456-6666 or in person at the Theater Square Box Office, 665 Penn Ave., downtown. 
  • Group discounts, including student discounts, are available. Call 412-281-0912 ext. 213, or learn more online.

Christina Jeter

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