My Gender and War class has had me thinking of theatrical solutions to international, and specifically military, problems. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the potential of theatre for development, focusing in particular on one example in Cameroon.
Today, I am remembering Ajax. And it just so happened that on my first scan into research, remembering how we studied this Greek play our freshman year, that I found this article in The New Yorker from September 12th. Bryan Doerries’ Theater of War has been around for eight years now, continuing to hold performances that allow the mental health of soldiers to be confronted and discussed through thematic content and conversation. These performances are free, they are held wherever soldiers are, and include opportunities for talkbacks and discussions.
So I did another Google search. Are there more opportunities like this? Unbeknownst to me, many of the theaters that I know and frequent are now participating in TCG’s Blue Stars Theater program, which can include grant funding to create meaningful work for soldiers and veterans. Signing on to be a Blue Star Theater means that tickets to service members are always $10, and many organizations offer specific programs to engage military families, new and old, in their communities.
In 2015, these theaters received grant funding for their work in this field: California Shakespeare Theater creating partnerships between artists and non-profits, creating theater for military audiences while working with the Berkeley Food and Housing Project to support homeless veterans. San Diego Repertory produced the local premiere of one-woman play Grounded, a story of a female ace fighter pilot. The production was performed at military bases in addition to offering discounted tickets at the theater to military families. Designated performances featured post-show talkbacks. Steppenwolf hosts Veterans’ Night Preview Series, with a free dinner and tickets to 5 of the season’s final dress rehearsals. And finally, Young Playwrights’ Theater has engaged in a partnership with Military Child Education Coalition to participate in their after-school arts education program, specifically gearing their writing and collaborating lessons towards the focus of military families.
In this new era of international conflict, I think these programs bring more people together under the umbrella of theatre not necessarily as a safe place, but as a community that must face the problems of fellow community members together. It is initiatives like these that I hope will flourish in the coming days of our political future, and extend openness and communication across barriers that have previously been formed.