FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, PA, UNITED STATES
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. - An ancient Greek story about the invisible wounds of war experienced during decades of war in Athens, Greece, more than 2,500 years ago, was recently brought to a modern-day audience of citizen-soldiers and –airmen in central Pennsylvania.
More than 200 soldiers, airmen and civilians gathered at Fort Indiantown Gap Aug. 8 for a dramatic reading from Sophocles’ “Ajax” as part of the Theater of War: Soldiers and Citizens Tour.
“This play, Ajax, and all of the Greek tragedies, were written in a century in which Athens was at war for 80 years, and you had the full city come together to see these plays once a year,” said Greg Taubman, associate artistic director for Theater of War. “What our artistic director Bryan Doerries realized is that this was a play written for veterans by veterans and a play for military audiences in its original context and that we would have a lot to learn about the text by bringing it to military audiences.”
The dramatic reading of the ancient Greek tragedy about a war hero’s suicide—after what would be called post-traumatic stress today—and the struggles faced by his family, utilized the talent of actor Brendan Griffin, whose credits include “Taking Chance,” “Generation Kill” and “The Good Wife,” and actress Chinasa Ogbuagu, whose credits include “Law & Order,” “Nurse Jackie” and “Fringe.”
“As actors we don’t often have an opportunity to do things that have impact beyond just performing, and this is a really compelling way for me to do what I do and have it have resonance in the communities beyond just entertainment,” said Griffin. “I’ve found that, as I get older, it becomes more and more important to do things that allow me to interact with other communities and do things that are profound and interact with issues that are much greater than myself and much greater than my own community, and being part of Theater of War is an incredible opportunity to be part of something greater.”
“What I really love about this is the dialogue that this opens up, and I think it is so important to be able to talk about art, and I love that these plays are still relevant and it opens up this dialogue,” said Ogbuagu. “People that aren’t familiar with Sophocles are getting to hear these plays in a different way.”
The event wasn’t just focused on the reading from "Ajax," it was the dynamic, personal dialogue with panelists that followed the reading that fostered audience members discussing how what they just heard related to the struggles faced by military members today.
“The goal of an event like this is the opportunity to share a common story. We share the play, and how it can be a catalyst for people to connect with each other about their own experiences and their own story,” said Bradley. “I think if we let people gain perspective that they are not alone, they are not the only one who has gone through something like this, get a new idea of how to think about a hard situation that they’ve been through or someone they’ve served with or a loved one has been through, then I think that the presentation is successful.”
The success of the event comes in different forms but each event is unique in its own way as the genuine honesty expressed during the discussion portion helps define each event.
“I think the idea of success in this arena is a nebulous thing, because it’s provoking a conversation that is going to take a lot of different forms,” said Griffin. “I hope that subject by subject the impact will be specific to that person’s experience and in that experience they are discovering that there are systems of support that can allow them to be who they are and grieve in ways that they grieve and experience the traumas that they face in their life as individuals and to know that that it doesn’t have to be an individual struggle.”
“What I’ve experienced in a number of these over several years is powerful honesty, surprising connection and a kind of empathy. These presentations have had people stand up and tell stories about their fathers and children, and as we heard today, a fellow member of a unit that took their life six days ago, and it is done with respect, listening and the opportunity then to process further,” said Bradley. “These events create something that is rare and can build a sense of connection and that after all is what helps people not be in a situation where they feel they have no choice but to take their life.”
The event was sponsored by the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Program, as part of the Theater of War: Soldiers and Citizens Tour, organized by Outside the Wire and its partners Massachusetts General Hospital Academy, National Council for Behavioral Health and Points of Light. The project is made possible by a two-year grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation to present the tour to National Guard and reserve units and their communities across the United States.
More information on the project is available at www.theater-of-war.com.
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This work, Centuries-old tragedy opens personal dialogue on military suicides, by TSgt Ted Nichols, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.