Lauren Kistner, one of FIU Theatre’s BFA-Performance majors, recently had the experience of a lifetime when she, along with six other good will ambassadors and entertainers representing the Miami Marlins were invited to travel overseas as part of the Armed Forces Entertainment Tour to Southwest Asia. Initially she was a bit apprehensive about making the trip, for safety reasons and because it took a while for her mother to come to grips with the idea, but, ultimately, she knew it was an opportunity she just could not turn down.
The group spent two days each of four American bases where they did Meet & Greets, toured the bases and performed for the troops. During the tours they saw the machinery used in combat, met the pilots, the mechanics and soldiers on the front-lines and basically got a small taste of what life on an army base is like. According to Lauren, “It seemed like a village where everyone knew their job and just did what they had to do.” She humbly remembers the soldiers being happy and appreciative of the team’s visit and thinking, “We should be thanking you. It is such an honor to be here. You risk your lives so that we can be safe and here you are thanking us.”
Lauren emotionally recounts soldiers’ experiences that sound like they were taken straight out of a movie. Soldiers seeing missiles pass over their heads while walking on base, having their water supply cut off for over a month because the water was being poisoned or having no contact with family or loved ones for months at a time because their base was attacked. Even though she heard many sobering stories, the resilience of the men and women she met really amazed her. At one base, she recalls, they would have line dancing at night and somehow managed to maintain normalcy and even have fun. When asked if she would go on such a trip again, she responded without hesitation, “Absolutely!”
Lauren received the invitation to go on the good will trip due to her job for the Miami Marlins, which she does in addition to being a full time student at FIU. Being a cheerleader and a student is extremely time consuming but she enjoys keeping herself busy and feels that cheering has helped her to grow as an artist. Her cheerleading team is called The Marlins Energy Team and consists of cheerleaders, break dancers, dancers, and gymnasts. They attend all home games, perform on the field, on top of the dug outs and interact with the crowds. Recently, they performed at the opening ceremony for the Special Olympics in Miami. She has also been training tirelessly for the Marlins Home Opener on March 31.
Once she gets her degree, Lauren hopes to gain some acting experience. We are proud to call her one of our own and wish her continued success in her studies and her career.