Of the 33 performances I saw at the 2017 APAP Conference, the highlight of my APAP weekend was a performance of the Theater of War company. The experience was thought-provoking, inspirational and the most memorable.
|Bryan Doerries, Artistic Director of Theater of War|
From the depression-era to the Cold War to the anti-war protests of the 60’s and beyond, American theatre has served as a platform for social commentary and action. Theater of War continues that tradition with community-specific, reader’s theater-based projects that address some of the most pressing social issues of our time. The company uses various plays to address such topics as PTSD, end of life care, police and community relations, domestic violence, substance abuse and addiction, gun violence and prison reform. Each dramatic reading is followed by a panel discussion between varied members of the community and a town hall style audience exchange.
We saw Theater of War actors deliver powerful scene readings from three plays: Antigone, Ajax and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The Artistic Director of Theater of War, Brian Doerries, provided the audience with a little background on the readings and how they have been used to facilitate growth and change in communities. Readings from the Greek tragedy Ajax are used to promote dialogue about war and PTSD. Long Day’s Journey Into Night serves as a springboard for discussion about substance abuse and addiction. Theater of War’s most expansive project to date is Antigone at Ferguson which uses Sophocles’ Antigone to forge conversations about the impact of gun violence on communities and healing between law enforcement and the citizens they serve. That program has been expanded to include a gospel choir in lieu of a Greek chorus. I hope to see the full program of Antigone at Ferguson at Dartmouth College later this year.
Among the scene readings we saw, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night seems the most relevant to students and families in Derry and surrounding towns. Even as I write this blog, hundreds of New Hampshire students are attending an opioid summit at the SNHU Arena in Manchester. With nearly 500 opioid related deaths in New Hampshire in 2016, the time is right to bring this particular Theater of War performance and panel discussion to the Stockbridge Theatre. I am excited to see that become a reality.
-Susanne Tartarilla, Associate Dean of Students, Theater Program Director