Dramatic reading of ‘Ajax’ held in Bow

Last modified: 4/16/2015 11:47:00 AM
Bryan Doerries was never in the military. He was just a concerned citizen with a background in classics.

This concern and experience led the artistic director to Bow yesterday, where he presented a dramatic reading of Sophocles’s Ajax in the “Theater of War: Soldiers & Citizens Tour,” the 284th performance since its inception in 2008.

Featuring actors Erica Newhouse and Zach Grenier, the dramatic reading of the Greek tragedy served as an emotional performance for an audience of military members, veterans and civilians. It was followed by a discussion.

“The play is the introduction,” said Grenier, who read the part of Ajax. “It’s a very gratifying thing.”

Doerries created the performance and tour to address a difficult topic: the visible and invisible wounds of war. The purpose, he said, is to bridge the divide between those who have served and those who have not.

“It’s an opportunity to educate people about military culture,” said Ken Norton, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Health New Hampshire.

The story of a soldier, Ajax, in the ninth year of the Trojan War, takes on topics that are still relevant thousands of years after it was written, including suicide, the effects of war on soldiers’ mental and emotional states, and how these challenges affect soldiers’ loved ones. Doerries, Newhouse – who read the role of Ajax’s wife Tecmessa – and Grenier read two scenes from the play, ending with Ajax’s suicide.

“We’re still struggling with the same type of questions the play presents,” Doerries said.

Peter Evers, CEO of Riverbend Community Mental Health in Concord, was one of four panel discussion facilitators who reacted to the dramatic reading. The performance struck a few different notes for him, he said, one of which was a reminder of how terrible the diseases are that affect soldiers. “Sometimes PTSD and depression can be fatal,” he said.

Last night’s performance at Bow High School was the second of the day for actors. Before the public reading and discussion, the same performance was given to an entirely military audience. This was the second visit to New Hampshire for the tour; Doerries brought the same performance to Concord High School in 2010.

“It was a good way to present suicide prevention, especially for the military,” said Staff Sgt. Dana Osborne, state resilience coordinator for the New Hampshire National Guard, who was a facilitator in last night’s panel discussion.

“It was very moving,” said Osborne, has been deployed twice – once to Kuwait and once to Iraq – and will be deployed soon for a third time.

After prompting the audience with reflective questions, Doerries left the mixed civilian and military crowd with a message: “You’re not alone.”

(Susan Doucet can be reached at 369-3309, sdoucet@cmonitor.com or on Twitter 

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