Theater of War for Frontline is an innovative project that presents dramatic readings by acclaimed actors of scenes from ancient Greek plays to help nurses, doctors, first responders, and other health care professionals, along with concerned citizens and those impacted by COVID-19, engage in healing, constructive discussions about the unique challenges and stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using Sophocles' Philoctetes and Women of Trachis to create a vocabulary for discussing themes such as personal risk, death/dying, grief, deviation from standards of care, abandonment, helplessness, and complex ethical decisions, Theater of War Frontline aims to foster connection, community, moral resilience, and positive action.
This event is hosted by UCSF Health, and Stanford School of Medicine: Medical Humanities and the Arts Program (Medicine & the Muse). We are proud to open this event up to public, to bring the broader community impacted by COVID-19 and concerned citizens into dialogue with frontline medical professionals.
About the plays
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.
Addiction & Substance AbuseAddiction Performance Project
Designed to raise awareness about opiate addiction and alcohol abuse, the project is intended to promote dialogue about helping those who are struggling with addiction.
Caregiving & DeathTheater of War Frontline
Theater of War Frontline 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 professionals 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 the frontline community 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.
Pandemic & Climate CrisisThe Oedipus Project
The Oedipus Project presents acclaimed actors reading scenes from Sophocles’ Oedipus the King as a catalyst for powerful, constructive, global conversations about climate change, ecological disaster, environmental justice, and healing online conversations about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon diverse communities throughout the world. Sophocles’ ancient play, first performed in 429 BC, just after the first wave of a plague that killed nearly one-third of the Athenian population, is a story of arrogant leadership, ignored prophecy, intergenerational curses, and a pestilence and ecological collapse that ravages the archaic city of Thebes. Seen through this lens, Oedipus the King appears to have been a powerful tool for helping Athenians communalize trauma and loss, while interrogating their own complicit role in the suffering, not just of those around them but of generations to come.