Performances of “Theater of War” and “End of Life” come to Maine
by Lizz Sinclair ::: bio

Theater of War shook me to my core, and the response of the panel members was raw and incredibly effective.

Theater of War, in particular, was a moving engaging experience ... I am still reeling from the maelstrom it stirred up.

After Shock Conference participants

Bryan Doerries, creator and director of the Theater of War, moderates questions about the performances Bryan Doerries, creator of “Theater of War” and “End of Life”, moderates questions during a performance.

Those of you who attended the Literature & Medicine program’s “After Shock” conference last fall will not soon forget the power of the “Theater of War” performance; in fact, we continue to hear how much the performance meant to those who experienced it, almost a year later. The Maine Humanities Council is happy to announce that Mainers will have a rare opportunity to see “Theater of War” and “End of Life,” performed by the same reader’s theater troupe, this October.

A panel consisting of a veteran, a soldier, and a soldier's family member respond to a “Theater of War” performance and answer audience questions.
L&M liaison Tom Lizotte and others listen to a reading of Ajax.

Both performances are presented by Outside the Wire, an innovative, nationally acclaimed reader’s theater troupe that uses ancient Greek drama to spark community dialogue about pressing public health issues. In ancient Greece, theater was employed as a tool to engage audiences in dynamic, thoughtful dialogue about difficult issues; there are few issues more difficult to discuss than those related to the re-integration of warriors into society, and to the end of life.

In both performances, a cast of professional actors will bring the characters and issues to life, delivering a powerful performance that engages audiences on a deep level, eliciting heart-felt conversation in the town-hall style discussion that follows the performance. This moderated discussion will be led off by a panel of Mainers representative of those engaged in issues related to the readings—including family members and health care professionals—who will share their reactions to the performance. The moderator will then open up the discussion to the audience.

Theater of War” presents a reading of scenes from Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes. These timeless ancient plays depict the psychological and physical wounds that war inflicts upon warriors. They are textbook-like descriptions of wounded warriors struggling under the weight of psychological and physical injuries to maintain their dignity, identity, and honor. This is followed by a town-hall style discussion of the issues raised by the play. Director Bryan Doerries created the performance in the hope that it would help to de-stigmatize psychological injury among soldiers and veterans, and open a safe space for dialogue about the challenges faced by service members, veterans, and their caregivers and families.

In addition to the health care professionals at our conference (many from Veterans Administration Medical Centers), the performance has reached military sites throughout the United States and Europe under a contract from the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) in 2009-2010. Nearly 25,000 service members, veterans and their families have attended and participated in TOW performance discussions to date.

End of Life” also presents classical Greek drama reader’s theater style by professional actors. The production draws on key scenes from two classical plays that reach directly to the heart of issues involved in the end of life: loss, pain, anger, fear, isolation, love and compassion. The scenes present emotionally charged, ethically complex situations involving suffering patients and conflicted caregivers, providing an ancient perspective on contemporary medical issues. It follows the same structure as the TOW performance, with a panel of family members and health care professionals briefly sharing their reactions to the performance, followed by reactions from the audience.

In ancient Greece, thoughtful dialogue about difficult issues ... In both performances, a cast of professional actors will bring the characters and issues to life, delivering a powerful performance that engages audiences on a deep level, eliciting heart-felt conversation.

Most of us, whether a professional health care provider or not, will be called upon to care for another who is approaching death, and we can hope that we will, in turn, be cared for in the same way. “End of Life” helps audience members begin—or continue—the difficult discussions about death that are hard for all of us, and it will also promote exploration of the ethics of treating patients facing painful, prolonged deaths.

End of Life” has been used as a teaching tool by Harvard Medical School and the University of Virginia School of Medicine to prepare medical students to face the challenges of attending to the needs of terminally ill and chronically suffering patients and their families.

The performances are made possible by support from:
The Sewall Foundation, the Hospice Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, Maine Medical Center, the University of Maine at Augusta, The Ethics Committee of Eastern Maine Medical Center, Husson University, Eastern Maine Charities, and the Maine Humanities Council.

We encourage all Mainers to attend one or more of these performances. Tickets are free but reservations are required. Please contact Annie Medeiros.

Schedule of Performances

“End of Life” | Portland, ME
Dana Center, Maine Medical Center
Tuesday evening, October 18th, 2011, 6:30 - 9:00 pm

“Theater of War” | Augusta, ME
University of Maine at Augusta
Wednesday evening, October 19th, 2011, 6:30 - 9:00 pm

“End of Life” | Bangor, ME
Gracie Theater, Husson University
Thursday evening, October 20th, 2011, 6:00 - 8:30 pm

For ticket information, contact Annie Medeiros.


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