HEIDELBERG, Germany -- When ancient Greek's most decorated playwright and army general wrote about the many challenges and issues soldiers faced in the 5th Century B.C., he probably didn't realize those same scenarios would apply to Soldiers 2,500 years later.

With the growing number of Soldiers facing post-traumatic stress syndrome and thoughts of suicide, finding an effective way to communicate what services are offered and the simple fact that it's OK to ask for help can be a challenge.

That's why Bryan Doerries, translator of Sophocles' works, along with producing partner Phyliss Kaufman, created "Theater of War," a project of the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, performed in Heidelberg at the Patrick Henry Village Theater May 12, the first of 18 performances scheduled in Germany.

The program includes a dramatic reading of two of Sophocles' plays, "Ajax" and "Philoctetes", which both portray events of war and the medical and psychosocial effects of trauma on Soldiers, families and communities. After the reading, a town hall discussion is held about the challenges faced by combat service members and veterans today.

"These events are powerful opportunities for the audience to safely discuss and constructively reflect on physical and emotional injury; death and life-threatening experiences; stigma; grief and loss; supportive relationships and the timeless relevance of these lessons in prolonged combat," Doerries said.

"Theater of War," Before the performance, Doerries asked five members of the audience to act as a panel after the reading and share their thoughts about the plays and how the scenarios may have related to them personally.

The panel consisted of a chaplain, the spouse of a deployed service member, and an officer and two noncommissioned officers with previous deployments.

"I related to the entire reading of 'Ajax,' said Jennifer Murphy, spouse of a deployed Soldier. "Many times I feel like my husband and I have a constant feeling of fear of the unknown and fear of the future. I want to support him so badly, but I watch him question himself and his career."

Murphy said one of the lines that really stood out to her was when the wife of Ajax said, "I don't understand how a strong man can say such weak words."

"I can't tell you how many times I have thought that to myself about my husband," Murphy said.

Recognized stage and screen actors performed the readings. Actors in the USAREUR tour include Gretchen Egolf who has appeared in "Roswell," "Journeyman," and "Law & Order SVU"; Jamie Hector who has appeared in "Heroes," "The Wire," "Law & Order," and the short film "Five Deep Breaths"; Reed Birney who has appeared in "Gossip Girl," "Kings," and "Law & Order"; and Brendan Griffin who has appeared in "Law & Order" and the TV movie "Taking Chance."
They all have television backgrounds, but chose to be a part of the program because of the format of the performances.

"You can feel such an immediate impact," Egolf said. "When you are doing a television show or a movie or a play in the theater, either the lights are all down or people are miles away watching you in their living room. Here, the lights are all on, you can see the faces in the audience and everyone is having an emotional experience together. Directly afterwards, people express how they feel and immediate reaction to what you have just done and it's very gratifying actually."

With this different approach to increasing awareness of post-deployment psychological health issues, organizers hope that 'death by Powerpoint' will soon be a thing of the past.

"Let us know what you think of programs like this," said Heather Robinson, U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Wuerttemberg Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program coordinator. "The more feedback we get about cool things like this, the more funding we'll get to bring more cool things over here. Then you won't be stuck with me going, 'next slide.'"

Future performances:
Aca,!Ac May 17, Bamberg, 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Aca,!Ac May 18, Schweinfurt, 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Aca,!Ac May 19, Ansbach, 10 a.m.
Aca,!Ac May 20, Kaiserslautern, 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Aca,!Ac May 21, Stuttgart, 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Aca,!Ac May 25, Grafenwoehr, 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Aca,!Ac May 26, Hohenfels, 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16