On October 14-15, 2022, actress Veronica Burgess will perform in Diavolo’s S.O.S. – Signs Of Strength at the Performing Arts Houston. DIAVOLO’s “Signs Of Strength” program is about courage, sacrifice, resilience, and human connection. Veronica Burgess grew up as a dancer who desired to perform, but she served four years in the US Navy before pursuing an entertainment career full-time.
Veronica shares her experience of performing on stage with fellow veterans and what drew her to be part of Diavolo’s Veterans Project: S.O.S Signs of Strength, she says “I have often wanted to be more involved with my fellow veterans and the community in an artistic way, so when I heard about the veterans project with Diavolo, I thought – this is what I have been looking for! It is truly a life-changing experience, and I absolutely love working with my fellow veterans and civilian dancers in creating this piece. I have been involved in stage performances since I was about seven years old, but nothing comes close to what I do with Diavolo. It completely restored my love for live performance, especially since the pandemic shut down theaters across the world for the last couple of years. It also renewed me as an artist in a way that I can’t really articulate. If you ever get an opportunity to see a Diavolo show – do it!”
When asked about some things she discovered about herself from her involvement in the show, Veronica says, “I can do anything I set my mind to! This show challenges me physically, mentally, and emotionally and about a week into our rehearsals, I distinctly remember feeling like maybe I should quit. It was that hard! But I stuck with it, thankfully, and once we hit week three, I started to feel like a new and improved, and more fearless version of myself. What a truly remarkable gift to get from a job, right?!”
Performing live can come with challenges, and regarding advice that helped Veronica perform live shows, she says, “One thing that Jacques, our artistic director, always tells us is “eyes in front of you, in back of you, on the side of you.” This is CRUCIAL in Diavolo’s work because of the kind of dangerous movements we are doing and the sometimes dangerous structures we are using. You must be present and pay attention to your surroundings at all times; otherwise, you or someone else will get hurt. So for these shows, that was the best piece of advice I could have gotten. I had a lot of fears and self-doubts going into this. I thought my story as a veteran wasn’t dramatic enough, so, therefore, not interesting enough. But that obviously isn’t true. All of our stories are relatable in their own way to both veteran and civilian audiences. They are all important. Additionally, I have a huge fear of falling that I had to get over pretty quickly in order to do my movements, especially my solo. So overcoming those challenges was huge.”
On working with the creator of Diavolo, Jacques Heim, and veteran performers, Veronica says, “Jacques is a true visionary. He is bold and will always push you to your limit, which sometimes is not what you want, but it’s always what you need. There is no other artistic director like him – not only in the way he creates but in the way he works with us. Truly a special person! Working with the other veterans was such a gift as well. I have missed the camaraderie of the military and the sense of purpose, but this show, this work, and these people gave that back to me.”
After people see the show, Veronica says, “I hope the audience understands what veterans go through a bit more. I hope they talk to us and ask us questions about our service instead of just saying thank you for your service. I hope they become more aware of veterans’ struggles when they resume civilian life and perhaps ask us if we need any assistance.”
Concerning Diavolo and her future involvement with it, Veronica states, “I told Jacques I would follow him anywhere, and that’s true. I just love what he and this company does not only for veterans but for the arts.” In addition to her performance with Diavolo, Veronica is known for her television roles in Shameless, Monogamy, and Heroine Kombat, and also in films with the most recent Cops and Robbers, starring Michael Jai White and The Way We Weren’t, starring Fiona Gubelmann. For new upcoming projects, Veronica says, “I have a couple of projects in the pipeline, but it’s still too early to discuss. I will keep you posted, though, and folks can follow me on Instagram for more updates. My handle is hello_veronicab”.
S.O.S. – Signs Of Strength – is the latest iteration of DIAVOLO’s Veterans Project, which utilizes the company’s unique style as a tool to help restore military veterans’ physical, mental, and emotional strengths through movement workshops and public performances. An evening of Signs of Strength is in two parts but with one overarching purpose of bringing together performers and audiences alike through a transformative experience that reaches far beyond the entertaining and the spectacular. Performed by a cast of military veterans and civilian dancers, the piece retraces the epic journey of a group of soldiers advancing through a landscape of battlegrounds, revealing how they face danger and meet adversity through individual feats of strength and resilience, and find unity and a sense of belonging that gives meaning to their personal sacrifice and service to the greater good. The evening concludes with Diavolo’s signature piece, Trajectoire, a visceral and emotional journey through the ebb and flow of the human experience.
You can get your tickets for the October 14-15 show at 7:30 pm at Jones Hall in Houston through the Performing Arts Houston website here. Tickets for veterans, active and retired military service members, reservists, and their families are $30. More than ever, our military veterans need exposure to arts that support their restoration. This program is about the necessity of arts that heal.
Find out more about Diavolo at https://www.diavolo.org/https://www.diavolo.org/
Article by Wendy Shepherd of Movie Vine.
Photo by Paul Smith Photography.