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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 world. 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

    Sophocles’ Ajax tells the story of a fierce warrior who is passed over for recognition by his command after losing his cousin Achilles in battle during the Trojan War. Feeling betrayed, Ajax attempts to murder his superior officers, fails, and—ultimately—takes his own life. The play tells the story of the events leading up to Ajax’ suicide, as well as the story of his wife and troops’ attempt to intervene before it's too late. The play also depicts the devastating impact of Ajax’ suicide upon his wife, son, brother, troops, and chain of command.

  • 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 the 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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TOW USNA Audience
Theater of War

Audience of Theater of War: Ajax

United States Naval Academy / 2023

We were honored to present three projects—Theater of War: Ajax, Rum and Vodka, and Tape—in Alumni Hall at the United Naval Academy on October 13th and 14th. Our thanks go the thousands of Midshipmen who participated and offered their keen insights into the plays, engaging in powerful discussions about mental health, suicide prevention, alcohol/substance abuse, addiction, consent, and power dynamics.Our thanks go the thousands of Midshipmen who participated and offered their keen insights into the plays, engaging in powerful discussions about mental health, suicide prevention, alcohol/substance abuse, addiction, consent, and power dynamics.

Theater of War

Audience member participates in Theater of War: Ajax

United States Naval Academy / 2023

Theater of War

Keith David Plays Ajax


This special presentation was co-presented by Theater of War Productions, Humana, Reveille Grounds, VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), and DAV (Disabled American Veterans), as part of Global Loneliness Awareness Week.

This event took place on June 12, 2023 and featured performances by Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black, Dear Edward), Keith David (Platoon, Armageddon, Nope), Naomi Mathis (Air Force Veteran, DAV Associate National Legislative Director), Dan West (Adjutant General, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States; Marine Veteran), and David Hanauer (Ensemble Manager of Olive Branch & Laurel Crown, Marine Veteran).

Theater of War

Theater of War Philoctetes

on Zoom / 2023

Watch the full recording Theater of War: Philoctetes featuring Willem Dafoe, Jason Isaacs, Nyasha Hatendi and a chorus of Veterans. This event was co-presented by Bravehound, a Scottish charity that supports former servicemen, women and their families by providing service dogs and training to Veterans.

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Theater of War Trailer


Watch the Theater of War Trailer

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.

Theater of War

Theater of War on PBS Newshour


Nytimes 1
Theater of War

Like War Itself, Effects of War Are Hell. Ask the Greeks.

The New York Times / 2008

Reg Theater Of War
Theater of War

The Healing Power of Greek Tragedy

Smithsonian Magazine / 2017

Theater of War

Theater of War: Battling PTSD with Sophocles

The Aspen Institute, Scholastic Auditorium, NY / 2016

Reg E. Cathey, Kathryn Erbe, and Michael Stuhlbarg perform Sophocles' Philoctetes, followed by a conversation with the audience, Bryan Doerries and Maurice Decaul.

Theater of War

Theater of War, the origin story by Bryan Doerries

Chautauqua Institution / 2016

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Theater of War

In Ancient Dramas, Vital Words For Today's Warriors

NPR / 2008

David Strathairn Gloria Ruben And Jeffery Wright
Theater of War

The Anguish of War for Today’s Soldiers, Explored by Sophocles

The New York Times / 2009

Ajax Illustration
Theater of War

You Are Not Alone Across Time Using Sophocles to treat PTSD

Harpers Magazine / 2014

Harpers Magazine profiles Theater of War. Read the article.

Theater Of War At Bam
Theater of War

Sophocles and awe: the director hitting war vets with Greek tragedy

The Guardian / 2015

Theater of War

Theater of War Productions presents Sophocles’ ‘Ajax’ at Miller Theatre, wrestles with impact of war through dialogue across campus and across time

Columbia University / 2019

Theater of War Productions collaborated with Columbia University in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Core Curriculum. We presented Ajax to an audience comprised of Columbia Students and New York City Veterans struggling with homelessness and addiction to contextualize and interrogate the text that has been taught for 100 years. Read about the performance in the Columbia Spectator

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