Very interesting items put up at Didaskalia today … here’s a bit from the page as a bit of a tease:
To describe Theater of War (hereafter ToW) as ‘theater,’ or ‘a theatrical event,’ or even a ‘performance’ is to surely miss the point. Working from the argument that Attic Greek drama was primarily (though not exclusively) a mode of performance “by veterans, for veterans,” Bryan Doerries—ToW’s creator, creative director, and one of its producers—focuses the event on multiple activities that dramatize the experience (and costs) of warfare and provoke discussion about them.1 The event itself falls into three stages. First, four to five professional actors sit at a table on a bare stage—no costumes, no props, no sets, no make-up, no special lighting—and perform a reading of Sophocles’ Ajax or Philoctetes. Next, the actors are replaced by another small group, made up of citizens, including veterans, often a veteran’s spouse, and usually a therapist with experience treating combat veterans, all of whom offer their own comments and experience. Finally, Doerries (in the role of emcee) invites the audience to talk about their reactions to the performance and comments, passing the microphone around. The entire event lasts approximately two hours, although discussions linger afterward.
In other words, ToW sits at the interstices between theatrical event and social tool. It is part classical homage, part Sophoclean revival, part town-hall meeting, part therapeutic group session, part social-impact project. Were it not for Doerries’s careful management of the audience, always steering the audience conversation back to the text of the performance, there is no little risk that ToW could also become part heated—even explosive—public debate on contemporary American military policy. In the open discussion, audience members speak thoughtfully, tearfully, passionately, even angrily. There is a simmering of communal emotion among the audience reminiscent not of the darkness of contemporary theater, but rather of the colorful, emotion-filled anecdotes found in the vitae of the Attic dramatists themselves. In short, ToW is a unique kind of event, a compelling amalgam of artifice and grassroots activity that asks (and answers) how ancient drama can serve society more than 2,400 years after the genre’s initial apogee.
Scholars may rightfully wonder whether ToW offers any meaningful insight into ancient performance. With its clear social aim, does ToW belong rather to the annals of contemporary theater history or reception studies? In Part Two, Doerries at one point suggests that part of his aim with ToW is in fact archaeological, to “excavate” and uncover the emotions and ideas of an ancient Athenian (male, citizen-soldier) audience.5 Doerries’s claim places him somewhat in league with a contemporary scholarly trend to examine the role of emotion in classical drama.6 We leave it to others to ask at least two further questions. First, how would we go about substantiating such a claim? Second, does or should this claim change the way we read, study, and perform Attic drama? […]
The rest of the page is worth reading and on the page as well is a two-part video interview that is definitely of interest …