During deployment, Spc. Joshua Theno was referred to as the 99X, or Army Magician. Working on his tricks for years, he entertained not only his fellow Soldiers, but also at veteran’s hospitals and children’s birthday parties. It was during his deployment that Theno first learned of the show.
“I was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan with the 1st Military Information Support Battalion out of Fort Bragg, and I did a morale show because of my running hobby, which is magic,” said Theno, spotlight technician for the 2013 U.S. Army Soldier Show. “My sergeant major, who was very happy with this asked, ‘have you ever heard of the Soldier Show?’” he said.
Theno continued, “This was in 2011, and I hadn’t heard of the show. I was able to catch a show during 2012 and at that moment, I knew I had to try to join in one way, shape, or form,” Theno continued.
The Soldier Show is a 75-minute musical production, performed by Soldiers for Soldiers. The show entertains troops at 34 continental U.S. locations with 55 performances, and a total travel distance of more than 30,000 miles. This year’s theme is ready and resilient and it marks the 30th anniversary of the show.
The theme explores what it means to be ready and resilient in today’s Army as a Soldier, spouse, Family member, survivor, retiree, or civilian.
“What we are trying to do with this year’s show, and especially the theme, is to encourage people to get through the challenging times,” said 1st. Lt. Jonathan Newey, audio technician for the show. “It’s amazing what, we as an Army, have been able to pull of in the last decade.”
The Fort Bragg part of the tour was held at the Crown Theater, Fayetteville, Sept. 3 and 4.
Theno said putting on the show requires specialized training with an emphasis on safety.
“Your job as a technician, whether it be, graphic illustrations or audio, is to be able to safely do everything technically for the show,” said Theno. “If it can’t be done safely, we don’t do it.”
Setting up requires building the stage, hanging all of the lights, running the thousands of feet of cable to power the lights, and performing checks on every piece of equipment.
The immense workload begins immediately upon arrival at the performance locations.
“We arrive at location around 8 a.m., where we have several detail Soldiers,” said Theno. “We always have volunteers because of the amount of work we have to accomplish in a short span of time. It takes between five and eight hours to safely construct our set and make sure it is working.”
After the show is over, the work begins again for the entire crew.
“As soon as the show is over, we tear down the set,” said Theno. “We are our own stage crew. The work doesn’t stop until everything is loaded onto the trucks.
“When we are doing takedown, we can be working until 2 a.m.,” said Newey.
“No matter what your job is on the show, everyone helps set up and tear down after all shows. Even our technical director helps out. Teamwork is key,” said Newey.
None of the Soldier Show work could be done without the submission of Soldier’s applications.
“To apply, you go online and submit a resume to include a video, and if (Army Entertainment) likes it, then you will be invited to Sam Houston (Texas) for a live audition process,” said Theno.
After the two-tier application process, the expectations can become more challenging.
“If you make it past the live audition, that is where the work begins,” said Theno. “There are long, grueling hours. The performers spend 6 ¾ days a week learning songs and choreography while the technicians are learning how to assemble and disassemble the equipment.”
Theno said he is grateful for his time at the show, as it comes to a close and he prepares to return to his home unit, 3rd MISB at Fort Bragg.
“We are all Soldiers first and foremost. We come from active duty, Reserves, and National Guard.” All of this talent that we have is from the Army and will return back to the Army,” Theno said.