Ancient Greek soldiers speak to today’s warriors

| April 16, 2010 | 0 Comments

Loran Doane
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii will host a series of “Theater of War” performances, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, at the Sgt. Smith Theater, here, and at Tripler Army Medical Center’s Kyser Auditorium.

The performances are designed to help Soldiers and family members deal with the emotional and psychological effects of combat and war, and the challenges of facing them after coming home. 

“Theater of War” consists of dramatic readings from two ancient Greek plays: Sophocles’ “Ajax” and “Philoctetes,” with presentations by Hollywood notables Amari Cheatom, Chad Coleman, Elizabeth Marvel and John Ventimiglia. The actors are best known for their television and big screen performances in “Law and Order,” “The Sopranos,” “Burn After Reading” and “Disparity of Forces.”

Since 2008, “Theater of War,” a project of the Department of Defense’s Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, has conducted performances and town hall meetings in military communities across the nation in an effort to reduce stigma and encourage service members to seek needed assistance for psychological health concerns.

“While warfare has radically changed over the centuries, the human element remains constant in its emotional impact and suffering, said Col. Michael Brumage, commander, Schofield Barracks Health Clinic. 

“By bringing this truth to the stage, we invite Soldiers and families to share their feelings about the effects war has had on them in a deep and meaningful way,” Brumage said. “Acknowledging normal reactions to abnormal circumstances is a strength. 

“We hope that people will use this opportunity to seek the care they need with self-compassion,” he said.

Follow-on town hall discussions invite interaction between the audience and a panel. 

The panel consists of Soldiers, former Soldiers, military spouses and behavioral health experts who will offer their personal insights on deployment and reintegration.

“Ajax.” This play tells the story of a fierce warrior who slips into a depression near the end of the Trojan War. After failing in his attempt to murder his commanding officers, he takes his own life. It is also the story of how his wife and troops attempt to intervene before it’s too late.

The play speaks to service members, veterans and their families today with a directness and immediacy rarely achieved by war narratives.

“Philoctetes.” This play is a psychologically complex tragedy about a famous Greek warrior who is marooned on a deserted island by his army after contracting a horrifying and debilitating illness.

“Philoctetes” was first performed in 409 B.C.; yet, the title character’s sense of abandonment and search for meaning in his pain still resonates strongly with today’s physically and psychologically injured combat veterans.

“Theater of War.” The presentation was founded by Bryan Doerries, noted New York-based writer, director and educator who translated and directed the performance.

The two plays read like textbook descriptions of wounded warriors struggling under the weight of psychological and physical injuries to maintain their dignity, identity and honor, according to Doerries.

Military audiences today will likely relate to and understand the impulses behind these ancient stories, Doerries added, emphasizing that he also believes these stories have something important and relevant to say to military audiences.

“The performances offer powerful opportunities for the audience to safely discuss and constructively reflect on physical and emotional injury; death and life-threatening experiences; stigma; grief and loss; supportive relationships; and the timeless relevance of these lessons in prolonged combat,” Doerries said.  

“The ‘Theater of War’ is a powerful public health tool for joining today’s warriors, their loved ones and our nation with the lessons of ancient Greek culture – we are not alone,” Doerries added.

Performances. The first performance will be at Schofield Barrack’s Sgt. Smith Theater, Monday, 9 a.m. A special performance for female warriors will be held at Sgt. Smith Theater, Wednesday, at 1 p.m.  

Tripler Army Medical Center will host a performance Thursday, at 9 a.m., in its Kyser Auditorium.

The performances are open to the public and admission is free.  Due to limited seating, it is recommended that guests arrive early. Parents are advised that some of the material discussed may be unsuitable for children under 13.

Those wishing to attend the Schofield Barracks performances must enter through Lyman Gate, and those planning to attend the Tripler Army Medical Center performances should enter through TAMC’s main gate.

Guests without military identification are required to show valid photo identification. 

Drivers must possess valid vehicle registration and proof of insurance to enter Army installations.

Category: News

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