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About the project

Reg E  Cathey Plays Ajax In Theater Of War At The Greene Space

Theater of War

Dramatic Reading of Ajax + Philoctetes, by Sophocles

Translated and Directed by Bryan Doerries

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 composed of citizen-soldiers. Also, 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.

Theater of War presents readings of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes to military and civilian communities across the United States and Europe. These ancient plays timelessly and universally depict the visible and invisible wounds of war. Each performance is followed by a powerful audience discussion led by community panelists. This project has been presented for diverse audiences in a wide array of settings, including military installations, hospitals, medical schools, universities, homeless shelters, libraries, public housing developments, cultural institutions, high schools, prisons, and public parks.

I think Sophocles’ wrote these plays to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable
Brigadier General Loree Sutton, Arlington, Virginia 2008
Amy Ryan plays Tecmessa in Theater of War: Ajax at the Crown Heights Library, Brooklyn, NY Photo by Gregg Richards

About the plays

  • Ajax by Sophocles

    Written in 5th Century B.C., Sophocles’ tragedy follows Ajax, a Greek warrior who falls into an interminable depression. Coping with the death of great warrior and friend, Achilles, Ajax is slighted when Achilles’ armor is unjustly awarded to the poet Odysseus instead. Ajax becomes furious and driven into madness resolves to murder those responsible for this decision but is put under a spell by the goddess Athena and massacres innocent cattle and herdsmen in his confusion. His family and friends attempt to console him, but filled with shame and remorse for his actions, Ajax ultimately commits suicide.

  • Philoctetes by Sophocles

    Sophocles’ Philoctetes tells the story of decorated warrior who is abandoned on a deserted island because of mysterious chronic illness that he contracts on the way to the Trojan War. Nine years later, the Greeks learn from an oracle that in order to win the war they must rescue him from island. When they finally come for him, the wounded warrior must overcome nine long years of festering resentment and shame in order to accept help from the very men who betrayed him.

Theater of War Highlights

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Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff Gen  Joseph Dunford Presents Theater Of War
Theater of War

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford presents Theater of War to Joint Chiefs and Combatant Commanders

National Defense University, Fort McNair, Washington, DC / 2017

Zach Grenier, Glenn Davis, and Marjolaine Goldsmith are introduced by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. See article.

Tow New Yorker
Theater of War

Reading of Scenes from Sophocles’ AJAX

National Geographic Society, Washington, DC / 2016

Jeffrey Wright, Marjolaine Goldsmith, Reg E. Cathey, and David Strathairn present Theater of War on the fifteenth anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks. This performance was featured in The New Yorker.

Violence Mediators And Veterans Tow Crown Heights
Theater of War

Violence interrupters and veterans watch Theater of War

Brooklyn Public Library, Crown Heights Branch / 2017

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