The ancient Greeks lived and warred and died so they could know things for us.
Before the war, there was Aristophanes. After the war, there is Sophocles. On March 3, 2003, activists Kathryn Blume and Sharon Bower organized 1,029 simultaneous performances and dramatic readings of Lysistrata – coordinating over 225,000 people in all 50 states and 59 foreign countries – as a protest against the Iraq War, a grand fugue of Aristophanes’ bawdy comedy known as The Lysistrata Project.
Now, the BBC and NPR report on a new directive, the brainchild of director and translator Brian Doerries: The Philoctetes Project, to raise awareness and support for returning soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has performed Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes for the Warrior Resilience Conference. The project features “John Adams” star Paul Giamatti as Odysseus.
“It’s an amazing thing that the military is so interested in these [plays],” says Giamatti, who points out that from one perspective, both Philoctetes and Ajax can seem anti-military. The title characters, he explains, essentially rail at their superior officers: “‘How could you have done this to me? I gave you my loyalty and strength and you turned me into a monster.'”
The NPR article is a great primer to this most impressive project.