Ancient Plays Provide Forum for Tough Topics

Story Number: NNS110623-17Release Date: 6/23/2011 2:11:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Justin L. Ailes, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- The Joint Stress Mitigation and Restoration Team (JSMART) aboard Naval Station (NS) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is sponsoring presentations of "Theater of War" through June 24.

The program, presented by Theater of War Productions, included Hollywood and Broadway actors reading the Greek drama, "Prometheus In Prison," as well as scenes from "Ajax" and "Philoctetes."

"Theater of War is an awareness project that has been touring military sites throughout the United States, Europe, and Cuba, performing ancient plays serving as a catalyst for town-hall discussions on issues that are hard to talk about otherwise," said Bryan Doerries, Theater of War producer. "The idea is to relate the impact of war on families and relationships, and provide a forum to discuss the effects of those experiences, utilizing these ancient plays that timelessly depict the seen and unseen wounds of battle."

Among these Greek tragedies, 'Prometheus In Prison' was written by Greek general Sophocles 2,500 years ago for an audience of more than 17,000 soldiers, said Doerries.

'Prometheus In Prison' portrays a depiction of a prisoner-of-war who has committed political crimes and is sentenced to an eternity of isolation and segregation away from the gods and humanity.

"The play is about how this prisoner rebels against those who have incarcerated him, his family, and friends, and we use this as a forum relating to those who serve in the criminal justice field, and especially here at the detention camp," said Doerries. "The story focuses on the pressures involved with working with self-righteous prisoners and the impact that has on those involved."

The scenes read from 'Philoctetes' depict a psychologically complex tragedy about a Greek warrior marooned on a desert island while his troops wage war without him, showcasing the importance of teamwork and resiliency, added Doerries, while 'Ajax' tells the story of a Greek warrior dealing with depression near the end of the Trojan War, conveying the effects of suicide and the impact it has on families.

"The play gives a voice to depression and suicide so that people see that it's not just them; these issues have been around since the beginning of time," said Francesca Dietz, wife of a Soldier stationed with the 525th Military Police Battalion on Joint Task Force Guantanamo, who will sit on a panel of commentators for the "town hall" discussions that happen after the readings.

The panel includes two veteran or active duty service members with prior deployments, a spouse or family member, and a chaplain or mental health professional.

"After the readings, we discuss our reactions to the play with audience members," said Dietz. "Everyone is involved in the discussion, and it raises awareness of the effects military service can have on individuals, their families including parents, and close friends."

Theater of War helps audience members understand the effects of war on military communities, said Dietz.

"It's okay to feel these things," said Dietz. "Soldiers today are not the first ones to feel anguish over their experiences, and they won't be the last ones. There are people who have been through the same things before and there are resources available to help."

The dramatic readings featured award-winning actors Phyllis Kaufman, Marin Ireland, Brian O'Byrne, William Mills Irwin, and Ato Essandoh.

"People in our audiences, especially military audiences, see their own stories reflected in tales over 2,500 years old, and because they see themselves in these depictions, something very powerful happens," said Doerries. "Audience members feel empowered to speak about their personal tribulations associated with military life and Theater of War provides an honest and sincere platform for those discussions."

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