Fascinating project; powerful outreach from Theater of War

November 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

As we discuss outreach, education, and marketing from an administration standpoint, it is easy to lose sight of the value of such programs beyond dollars and cents.  I highly recommend taking a look at Theater of War, a production company that presents readings of Sophocles’ ” Ajax” and “Philoctetes” to military bases, beginning conversations about the soldiers’ experience and readjusting to civilian society.


The company recently received $3.7 million from the Pentagon to bring its readings to service members at 50 military bases.  In an article in  The New York Times, Theater of War’s founder, Bryan Doerries is smart to clarify that the program is not psychotherapy.  Although it is aimed at addressing the psychological health and well-being of soldiers and veterans facing post-traumatic stress, Theater of War’s effectiveness has not been studied in clinical trials.  The powerful Theater of War video shows the performances and post discussions in action.  Doerries calls the presentations for service members and their families “a complete revelation” for the artists.  The discussions with the military audience have lead to a deeper understanding of what Sophocles’ plays are about, and the struggles soldiers face after combat. (Chilling in light of the recent Ft. Hood tragedy)


This isn’t just an “outreach” program embedded within a larger organization, Theater of War exists for outreach purposes.  However, as an arts organization examines its outreach and education programs, there is much to learn from the conversations started by Theater of War, and the lessons the company is learning from dialogue with its audience.




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