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Bearing Witness


Downstairs Cabaret is proud to bring back Thomas Bird in his play Bearing Witness. He went to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp to honor the memory of his father, a doctor who was part of its liberation at the end of WWII. As he conjures the spirits of his father and the camp’s victims, Tom, a Vietnam vet, recalls his own wartime experience, along with a long-held secret his dad revealed just before his death. In “bearing witness” himself, Tom is finally able to find some peace.  Click HERE to read more about this fascinating story.

Thomas Bird is a Vietnam War veteran who served with B Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regime, 1st Cavalry Division in 1965-66.  He was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with palm, and all Vietnam Service Medals.  On his return to the United States Tom resumed college and his football career, but (not without considerable struggles) soon found that his post war persona responded better to the arts.  He studied theatre - acting, writing and directing - and ultimately felt that his greater role in life was to give arts experience to other Vietnam Veterans.  He created VETCo, the Vietnam Veteran’s Ensemble Theatre Company, and, as the company’s Artistic Director, presented 26 plays Off and Off-off Broadway, including the highly acclaimed TRACERS at the Public Theatre, for which the company won a Drama Desk Award for “giving voice to the trauma of Vietnam”.  Tom’s life was highly influenced and he was supported by three important arts facilitators of their time -  Joseph Papp, legendary creator of The Public Theatre, Lee Strasberg, revered acting teacher and co-creator of The Actors’ Studio, and Michael Fuchs, longtime Chairman of HBO.   Much of Tom’s work was presented at The Public; he was taught and inspired by Lee Strasberg; and under Michael Fuchs’ tutelage Tom co-produced the Peabody, Ace, and Emmy Award winning documentary DEAR AMERICA, LETTERS HOME FROM VIETNAM.  At HBO Tom developed a number of film scripts and he created further programs to give Vietnam Veteran’s a voice in society, and to help less fortunate veterans to deal with life after war.  In 1981  Tom was chosen to be one of the first four veterans to return to war torn Vietnam.  Currently, Bird is Founder and Executive Director of Walking Point Foundation (see,  a non-profit, veterans service organization. WPF’s mission is to mentor all veterans from all wars – most recently from Iraq and Afghanistan, using the arts (theatre, fine art, music, comedy) as a means to get them to express themselves and facilitate their healing processes.

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