Skip to Content

About the project

Eol Sf Fran

Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

Dramatic Reading of Ajax + Oedipus the King + Philoctetes + Women of Trachis, by Sophocles

Translated, Directed, and Facilitated by Bryan Doerries

The COVID-19 pandemic demands bold and decisive action in order to meet the needs of health care providers throughout the nation and the world, who may have few outlets to engage in healing, constructive dialogue with peers about the challenges they now face. In light of this, Theater of War Productions has retooled as a company to produce dynamic, online performances and discussions on Zoom’s webinar platform, in the style of its live events. The goal of these performances is to create free, easily-accessible opportunities for medical providers, who may be struggling in isolation with trauma, loss, illness, grief, and distress, to name and communalize their experiences, connect with colleagues, and access available resources.

Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers is an innovative project—developed by Theater of War Productions, the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and the Johns Hopkins Program in Arts, Humanities & Health—that presents dramatic readings by acclaimed actors of scenes from ancient Greek plays for audiences of frontline medical providers to open up powerful dialogue about difficult subjects, fostering a sense of connection and promoting health-seeking behavior. By presenting ancient plays to doctors, nurses, EMTs, respiratory therapists, and other healthcare providers about emotionally-charged, ethically complex situations, Theater of War Frontline aims to create a brave space for open, candid dialogue and reflection, fostering compassion, a renewed sense of community, and positive action.

Over the past decade, Theater of War Productions has honed its method and approach, through more than a thousand performances in medical and military settings, utilizing the power of the arts and humanities to dissolve hierarchies and generate a shared vocabulary for professional audiences to discuss stigmatized subjects. It is precisely because Theater of War Frontline does not feel like medicine that it is an effective intervention for medical professionals, who are often reluctant to express vulnerability, acknowledge error, or seek resources or help. Theater War Frontline presents a healthy alternative to standard medical debriefings and offers a dynamic way for clinicians to step back from their professional roles, bear witness to their own experiences, and come together as a community—without having to narrate their trauma—by discussing and interpreting empowering online performances of ancient plays.

If only everyone could see this perhaps a mutual understanding could possibly develop to create a sense of unity that we will need to beat these pandemics.
Audience Member, Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers, Lincoln Medical Center

About the plays

  • Ajax by Sophocles

    Sophocles’ Ajax tells the story of a fierce warrior who slips into a depression near the end of The Trojan War, after losing his best friend, Achilles. Feeling betrayed, Ajax attempts to murder his commanding 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.

  • Oedipus the King by Sophocles

    Sophocles’ Oedipus the King tells the story of an overconfident ruler during the time of a great plague, who refuses to listen to trusted advisors, ignores prophecy, and—after launching an investigation—discovers that he is the source of the contagion that is ravaging his people and his land. Upon uncovering the truth about himself and his role in the disaster, the king loses nearly everything—his crown, his wife, his power, his country, his honor—and wanders off into exile, a fate worse than death in ancient Greece. Oedipus the King is a timeless story about leadership, accountability, and the challenges faced by citizens and elected officials during pandemics and plagues.

  • 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.

  • Women of Trachis by Sophocles

    Sophocles’ Women of Trachis, tells the story of Heracles—the strongest of all Greek heroes—who has been unintentionally poisoned by his wife, Deineira, after she discovers that he has fallen in love with a younger woman. In an attempt to win back her husband’s affection mistakes a lethal toxin, which was given to her by a dying centaur years ago for a love potion. Deineira sends him a robe dipped in the liquid. When Heracles puts on the robe it immediately eats through his skin, muscle tissue, down through his bones to the marrow. Heracles falls to the ground, clutching his sides, crying out in pain, calling for his teenage son, Hyllus, to come to his aid and to help him put an end to the seemingly endless waves of pain.

Highlights

1 / 10
Amy Ryan Anthony Almojera and Chad Coleman in Theater of War Frontline EMS
Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

Theater Of War: Using Greek Tragedy To Help Frontline Medical Workers Cope During Covid-19

Forbes / 2020

Read the feature about Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers in Forbes. Amy Ryan, Anthony Almojera, and Chad Coleman in Theater of War Frontline EMS on July 30 2020.

Lancet
Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

Dramatic interventions in the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic

The Lancet / 2020

Read the feature in The Lancet

Screen Shot 2020 05 28 at 1 37 43 PM
Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

Frances McDormand plays Hercules in The Women of Trachis

on Zoom / 2020

Frances McDormand plays Hercules in The Women of Trachis presented to the Baltimore and Johns Hopkins medical community in June 2020 with The Berman Institute of Bioethics in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Screen Shot 2020 05 28 at 1 48 14 PM
Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

Frankie Faison plays the Chorus in Philoctetes and The Women of Trachis

on Zoom / 2020

Frankie Faison plays the Chorus in Philoctetes and The Women of Trachis, presented to the Baltimore and Johns Hopkins medical community in June 2020 with The Berman Institute of Bioethics in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Screen Shot 2020 05 28 at 1 43 04 PM
Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

David Strathairn plays Philoctetes

on Zoom / 2020

David Strathairn plays Philoctetes presented to the Baltimore and Johns Hopkins medical community in June 2020 with The Berman Institute of Bioethics in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Screen Shot 2020 05 28 at 1 39 02 PM
Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

Jesse Eisenberg plays Hyllus in The Women of Trachis

on Zoom / 2020

Jesse Eisenberg plays Hyllus in The Women of Trachis presented to the Baltimore and Johns Hopkins medical community in June 2020 with The Berman Institute of Bioethics in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Screen Shot 2020 05 28 at 1 54 19 PM
Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

2020

Panel in Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers with Johns Hopkins Bermen Institute of Bioethics. This panel includes a nurse, a respiratory therapist, a medical student, and an ER doctor.

Tow Medical Highlight
Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

A conversation about death, begun 2,500 years ago in Greece

UCSF / 2018

Theater of War for Medical Communities was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle

Screen Shot 2020 08 19 at 8 32 49 PM
Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

Jesse Eisenberg, David Zayas, and Frances McDormand

On Zoom / 2020

Presenting Sophocles' Women of Trachis during Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers at Lincoln Medical Center.

Screen Shot 2020 08 19 at 8 02 46 PM
Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers

Frankie Faison, Jesse Eisenberg, and David Zayas

on Zoom / 2020

Presenting Sophocles' Philoctetes during Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers at Lincoln Medical Center.

Back to Top