Theater of War
Theater of War is an innovative project that presents readings of ancient Greek plays—Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes—as a catalyst for town hall discussions about the challenges faced by service members, veterans, their families, caregivers and communities. The readings are followed by a town-hall style discussion, facilitated with the help of local military community members. Theater of War Productions, supported by a generous grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in collaboration with the USO, is partnering with prominent theaters and universities throughout the United States to present Theater of War for mixed audiences comprised of military service members and civilians.
Theater of War Productions has delivered over 175 performances for military and civilian communities throughout the United States, Europe and Japan. Performances have been attended by more than 35,000 service members and veterans of every rank, their family members and caregivers, from high-level Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs officials to Special Forces, as well as Army and Marine infantry.
It has been suggested that ancient Greek drama was a form of storytelling, communal therapy, and ritual reintegration for combat veterans by combat veterans. Sophocles himself was a general. At the time Aeschylus wrote and produced his famous Oresteia, Athens was at war on six fronts. The audiences for whom these plays were performed were undoubtedly comprised of citizen-soldiers and the performers themselves were most likely veterans or cadets. Seen through this lens, ancient Greek drama appears to have been an elaborate ritual aimed at helping combat veterans return to civilian life after deployments, during a century that saw 80 years of war.
Using Sophocles’ plays to forge a common vocabulary for openly discussing these difficult issues, these events are aimed at generating compassion and understanding between diverse audiences.
Theater of War Productions’ audience expansion initiative also includes these partners: Actors Theatre of Louisville, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Carpetbag Theatre, The Classical Theatre of Harlem, Cornerstone Theater Company, Theater Emory/Rollins School of Public Health, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, People’s Light & Theatre, Ten Thousand Things and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.