A memoir of a man with a mission, bringing the message of ancient tragedies to modern audiences in need of the comfort of their compelling truths.
The founder of Theater of War, “a project that presents readings of ancient Greek plays to service members, veterans, and their families to initiate conversations about the visible and invisible wounds of war,” Doerries, a “self-proclaimed evangelist for classical literature and its relevance to our lives today,” has adapted the texts of Greek tragedies into everyday speech, believing that the messages they contain can foster compassion and healing. His troupe stages readings of modern translations of ancient tragedies, followed by panel discussions eliciting audience participation. The experience of directing a performance of a Euripedes play while a student of classical languages led him to a career translating and directing Greek dramas. Doerries was able to persuade the military to allow him to present on bases around the world his adaptation of Sophocles’ Ajax, in which a Greek warrior stricken with grief, exhaustion, anger, and a sense of betrayal by his superiors commits suicide. The author writes that recognizing themselves in the character of Ajax, servicemen were able to share their stories as never before. Similarly, he has presented his adaption of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, a play about discipline, power, hierarchy, and control, to corrections officers. His work has since expanded into readings of other Greek plays to other groups—for example, students and teachers at medical schools and hospitals, with the aim of starting open discussions about palliative care and death and dying. He has also presented the biblical Book of Job before communities suffering in the aftermaths of natural disasters.
Samples of his adaptations scattered throughout the book demonstrate that Doerries has a knack for putting ancient speeches into powerful modern words; hopefully, a companion volume containing the full texts will follow.