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Theater of War


4/12/2016

Story by Mary Sparacell0


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Tony Award-nominated actor Bryce Pinkham, performing as Ajax, enthralled the
audience with his portrayal of “divine madness” along with actor Emily Young

and artistic director Bryan Doerries.

On April 7th, Theater of War, the 2016 Dennis A. Georges Lecture on Hellenic Culture, vividly demonstrated the relevance of Greek tragedy for confronting today’s challenges. Under the auspices of the Classical Studies Department in the School of Liberal Arts, the New York City social impact company Outside the Wire presented a dramatic reading of Sophocles’ Ajax, a tragedy about the suicide of a hero-soldier following the Trojan War presented with contemporary themes.

Tony Award-nominated actor Bryce Pinkham starred as Ajax, enthralling the audience with his portrayal of “divine madness” and with the fallen hero’s range of emotions. He thundered with Ajax’s anger, tenderly cradled his young son, and finally succumbed to an eerie calm as he assured his wife that he was fine before going off to fall on his sword. Actor Emily Young played his wife Tecmessa, who pleaded with Ajax to spare her and their young son the grief of his suicide, before finding his body.

Outside the Wire artistic director Bryan Doerries read the part of the chorus and led a post-performance discussion with the audience and military panel. A panel of three war veterans – two from the Vietnam War and one from Afghanistan – as well as the wife of a combat veteran responded to the performance. The panelists clearly connected with Sophocles’ work as they talked of the challenges of returning home after war, of dark moments and the difficulty of civilians understanding the experience of soldiers.

Gala True, a research associate professor from Tulane University School of Medicine who works with veterans, said veterans could see suicide as “infectious – if we talk about it, it infects us.” She said it is important that we learn to talk openly about suicide in a way that doesn’t make it feel infectious.

After the panelists spoke, audience members said the play touched them deeply and many were visibly moved. The reading and discussion in cavernous Dixon Hall felt intimate as people bared their emotions and the supportive audience clapped after particularly touching revelations.

Outside the Wire has produced Theater of War over 300 times, mesmerizing audiences around the U.S. and Europe. Doerries said that audience members always make personal connections across time with the Greek tragedy Ajax that was written and performed 2,500 years ago. If Theater of War has one message, Doerries says, it’s that “you are not alone.” Based on the response of the Tulane audience, you’re not alone in this room, and in the 342 prior performances, you’re not alone in this country and world. “Most important, you’re not alone across time.”

The Dennis A. Georges Lecture series was established as a memorial to Dennis A. Georges, the father of Constantine Georges (A&S '77), who is on the School of Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Council. “Our family’s desire was to expose the modern citizen to the rich intellectual and cultural Greek heritage which is still relevant today,” Constantine Georges says.

 

 

Tulane University, School of Liberal Arts, 102 Newcomb Hall, New Orleans, LA  70118, (504) 865-5225, liberalarts@tulane.edu