The Theater of War reading on the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

by Howard Sherman, Reported and Photographed
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This Memorial Day weekend, Theater of War Productions and New York City Public Artist in Residence (PAIR) Bryan Doerries brought together a special Fleet Week event — a dramatic reading of scenes from Sophocles’ Philoctetes at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in NYC.

The evening began with an introduction by Brigadier General (ret.) Loree Sutton, MD, the Commissioner for New York City Department of Veterans Services (DVS). She spoke of “the need to debate the cost of war, the need to remember those who were lost.”Brigadier General ret. Loree Sutton MD Commissioner for NYC Department of Veterans ServicesThen there was a dramatic reading of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, an ancient Greek tragedy about a hero who is abandoned on a deserted island on account of a mysterious chronic illness. The reading cast included actors Zach Grenier (The Good Wife, Deadwood, Fight Club), Kathryn Erbe (Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Oz, What about Bob?), and Reg E. Cathey (House of Cards, The Wire, Oz)Actor Reg E. CatheyReg E. Cathey and Zach Grenier in Theatre of War reading Theatre of War actors Kathryn Erbe and Zach GrenierFollowing the reading, Bryan Doerries, artistic director of Theater of War and Public Artist in Residence, City of New York, moderated a discussion exploring the searing impact of violence and war on individuals, families, and young people. In attendance were veterans, over 50 active duty military personnel, and members of the wider public as well as an assembled panel.Bryan Doerries moderates discussion after the readingThe panelists were Roman Baca, Marine Iraq War Veteran and artistic director of Exit 12 Dance Company; Michael Drake, Operation Enduring Freedom veteran, combat medic; and peer coordinator, NYC Department of Veteran Services; Tina Atherall, LMSW Regional Director for Blue Star Families Staff Team; and Sarah Wade, military spouse.Veterans Roman Baca and Michael Drake participated in the Fleet Week discussion Panelists included Tina Atherall with the Blue Star Families Staff Team and Sarah Wade a military spouseDuring the discussion, Sarah Wade said that, “When someone feels the pain, they finally become obliged to help.” To which Tina Atherall said, “We are challenging you to hold space for our pain.”

The reading of Philoctetes is one of over 60 performances Bryan Doerries and Theater of War Productions are staging in all five boroughs of New York City as part of Doerries’ role as the recently appointed NYC Public Artist in Residence (PAIR). Announced in March 2017 as a joint appointment with the NYC Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Doerries’ residence uses performance and dialogue to break down barriers created by violence and trauma and to foster greater understanding among veterans and other communities. Made possible by a generous grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, PAIR events are co-produced by Brooklyn Public Library as part of their mission to engage diverse communities in discussions on the issues of our time.

ABOUT THEATER OF WAR PRODUCTIONS:  Theater of War Productions is a social impact company that uses theater as a catalyst for public conversations to help communities address pressing public health and social issues such as combat-related psychological injury, suicide, end of life care, prison reform, police/community relations, violence, natural and manmade disasters, domestic violence, substance abuse, and addiction. Theater of War Productions was co-founded in 2009 by Bryan Doerries and Phyllis Kaufman, who served as Producing Director from 2009 to 2016. Doerries currently serves as the company’s Artistic Director. For more information, please visit: www.theaterofwar.com

ABOUT NYC Public Artist in Residence (PAIR):  Launched by the Department of Cultural Affairs in 2015, New York City’s PAIR – Public Artist in Residence – is a municipal artist residency program that embeds artists in city government to propose and implement creative solutions to pressing civic challenges.  Bryan Doerries’ two-year PAIR residency will bring theater projects and community conversations that address critical public health and social issues to all five boroughs. Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is a co-producer of the project as part of its role as a resource and advocate for civic engagement, education, artistic expression, and fostering public discourse. In partnership with the NYC Department of Veterans’ Services and Department of Cultural Affairs, this city-wide project is made possible through a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

ABOUT THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ SERVICES (DVS):  The New York City’s Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) strives to improve the lives of all veterans and their families, regardless of discharge status. DVS is not a direct services agency, but rather a centralized hub able to put veterans at the center of all our efforts. We coordinate services with a range of agencies at the city, state, and federal level, as well as through public-private partnerships. Our mission is straightforward: to foster purpose-driven lives for NYC service members, veterans, and their families through: effective connections with the NYC community; targeted advocacy at the local, state, and national level; compassionate service, ensuring we make it easier to access services and benefits they’ve earned. We believe veterans are civic assets whose strength and demonstrated commitment to public service help NYC thrive. For more information, please visit: New York City’s Department of Veterans’ Services