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See Actor David Strathairn in FREE Performance of "Theater of War"

David Strathairn, renowned character actor and award-winning star of film, TV and stage comes to Cincinnati for one night only in what looks like a must-see, free event -- Theater of War, a theatrical public health project at 7 p.m. Sept. 7 in the Patricia Corbett Theater at University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.

Theater of War presents readings of scenes from Sophocles' tragic Ajax, with its shockingly contemporary themes that include survivor’s guilt and PTSD. It’s used as a catalyst for town hall discussions about the challenges faced by service members, veterans, their families, caregivers and communities.

Strathairn has appeared in more than 70 films in his more than 30-year career, ranging from the Bourne series to Lincoln to Brother from Another Planet to playing Edward R. Murrow in Good Night and Good Luck. His extensive TV credits include Miami Vice and The Sopranos. The chance to see him in a free performance? Priceless.

The performance is followed by community panelist remarks and a facilitated town hall discussion. Strathairn shares the stage with Bryan Doerries, artistic director of Theater of War Productions, who facilitates, and Marjolaine Goldsmith.

University of Cincinnati Classics professor Lauren Ginsburg teaches ancient drama and knows the value of introducing students not merely to texts but “modern uses of ancient plays.”

She’s known about the award-winning Theater of War public health program (it has programs on a variety of themes) presented for years in military bases but “it’s only recently been broadened into a “citizens and soldiers” version of the event which takes place on college campuses.” Ginsburg was committed to making University one of the national campuses.

She worked on bringing Theater of War for a year and a half, writing grants and collaborating with veteran organizations across the region.

“The VA was instrumental,” she said, including providing Dr. Kathleen M. Chard, Director of the Trauma Recovery Center at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center, to lead the after-performance panel discussion that includes Cincinnati veterans.

CCM drama faculty member Brant Russell adds, “I think this piece is part of a larger conversation about the visible and invisible wounds of war that frequently goes ignored.”

Ginsburg and Russell both express the hope that the evening will mobilize “citizens and resources to help improve the lives of service members, veterans, their families, and people in their communities.”

Nobody made war like the ancient Greeks (consider bloody action blockbuster films including Troy and The 300), and the Greeks famously laid the foundations for democracy and modern drama.

Russell gave a summary of the ancient psychological drama: “Ajax tells the story of a fierce warrior who slips into a depression near the end of The Trojan War, after losing his best friend, Achilles.

“Struggling with survivor’s guilt and feeling betrayed by his command after being passed over for the honor of Achilles’ armor, Ajax attempts to murder his commanding officers, fails, and ultimately takes his own life.

“The play tells the story of the events leading up to his suicide, and how his wife and troops attempt to intervene before it's too late.”

The context is fascinating. Program founder Dorries explains that it’s been suggested that 2,500 years ago, Ajax was already being used “as a form of storytelling and ritual reintegration for combat veterans by combat veterans.

“Sophocles was a general. During the 5th Century B.C., Athens was at war for more than 80 years, often on multiple fronts.

“The audience for whom Ajax was performed consisted of nearly 17,000 citizen-soldiers, and the actors themselves were most likely combat veterans and cadets.

“Seen through this lens, ancient Greek tragedy appears to have been a powerful public health tool aimed at helping service members and veterans confront and address the moral, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of war, as well as return to civilian life between deployments.”

Ginsburg and Russell both express the hope that the evening will mobilize “citizens and resources to help improve the lives of service members, veterans, their families, and people in their communities.”

Get to the theater early – Ginsburg has reserved the first 200 seats for veterans groups.

Theater of War is supported by the Office of the Provost, the Department of Classics, the CCM Harmony Fund, the TAFT Research Center, the Helen Weinberger Center for the Study of Drama and Playwriting, and the A&S Deans Office.

Theater of War, 7 p.m. Sept. 7. Patricia Corbett Theater, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. Free. Seating limited. CCM parking is at the end of Corry Blvd., off Jefferson Ave. (which is the continuation of Vine Street along the east border of UC.)

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts
Image via Wiki Commons