October 22, 2011
Bryan Doerries' Theatre of War
At PopTech this week, Bryan Doerries, a New York-based writer, translator, director, and educator read poetry to us, his eloquent use of language and intonation resonating with nearly everyone in the audience.
He is the founder of Theater of War, a project that presents readings of ancient Greek plays to service members, veterans, caregivers and families as a catalyst for town hall discussions about the challenges faced by combat veterans today.
Over the past year, Bryan has directed film and stage actors such as Paul Giamatti, Isiah Whitlock Jr., David Strathairn, Lili Taylor, Charles S. Dutton, Gloria Reuben, and Jeffrey Wright in readings of his translations of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes for military communities.
When people are in pain or have undergone crisis, it's important to be able to speak the unspeakable. He says, "Imagine soildiers in Athens, seated in the order of tribe and according to rank. They have come together to hear plays that only those who have been to war or cared for those who have gone to war could understand. They were there to laugh, weep and bear witness to the truth of going to war."
He goes on: "Now imagine American soldiers in a drill hall or a field house where they are seeing a play about a depressed warrior who has slipped into depression because he has seen his best friend murdered. He then takes his own life."
"Being separated from my troop is like being stripped of my humanity," said a soldier to him. He is doing this project to restore humanity for these individuals who feel like they lost their humanity along the way. And, he wrote these plays to help people heal.
Sophocles wrote these plays to comfort the inflicted and to inflict the comfortable. "This is what happens everytime we perform Theatre of War," he says. "In an environment that combines live theatre and community dialogue, people are comforted by what brings them together across time. They are inflicted by the understanding that empathy is not enough. Theatre is an ancient military technology which we are licensing from Sophocles, to raise awareness, to raise stigmas, and to stir our fellow citizens to action."
His other recent theatrical projects include “Prometheus in Prison,” which presents Aeschylus’ “Prometheus Bound” to corrections professionals to engage them in conversations about custody and reentry, and “End of Life,” which presents Sophocles’ “Women of Trachis” to palliative care and hospice workers to engage them in dialogue with other medical professionals about medical ethics and pain management.
For more on his work, read Bryan Doerries' op-ed in the Washington Post about his experience taking Theater of War performances to military bases.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Bryan Doerries' Theatre of War: