BRT hosts free play, community forum on veterans' issues

BRT hosts free play, community forum on veterans' issues

CUMBERLAND - Blackstone River Theatre will host a presentation of the Greek tragedy "Ajax," presented by the Pell Center at Salve Regina University, followed by a community discussion on veterans' issues on Thursday, Nov. 20, from 7 to 9 p.m.

"Ajax," a Greek tragedy written by Sophocles and set during the Trojan War, is being presented at five venues throughout Rhode Island in the month of November to honor the sacrifices of those serving in our armed forces. The free play, presented by the Pell Center at Salve Regina University in partnership with Providence College, will be followed by a community forum on veterans' issues which seeks to bring audiences face-to-face with the emotional scars faced by soldiers who must relive their experiences on the battlefield. The goal is to bring together recent veterans, future soldiers (e.g., ROTC cadets), faculty, students, and the larger community in the state for conversations about how best to assist soldiers returning from multiple tours of duty.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that post-traumatic stress disorder affects 20 percent of Iraq veterans and 11 percent of those who served in Afghanistan. Sadly, the emotional trauma of war is not a modern phenomenon. More than 2,500 years ago, the Greek playwright Sophocles explored the emotional cost of war in a short play, "Ajax."

"Ajax" in Rhode Island is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of NEH's "Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War" special initiative, which supports veterans-related programming within each state and encourages a national network of humanities programming for America's military, veterans, and their communities.

"This project, with the help of NEH and RICH, builds upon a long tradition of 'activist performance' in the theater that views storytelling as a positive force for social change," said Robert Hackey, professor at Providence College and visiting fellow at the Pell Center. "By drawing attention to significant issues, theater can stimulate a dialogue in the community that continues long after the performance. We sincerely hope this production and the conversations that follow will connect veterans and their families more deeply to their communities and to the resources that exist to help people navigating the transition from war to peace."

The Pell Center is a multi-disciplinary research center - or think-tank - on the campus of Salve Regina University. Named for former-Senator Claiborne Pell, the center promotes and studies good governance, public engagement, and effective leadership at home and abroad.

This contemporary production of "Ajax," using a new translation by James Scully, is presented to honor the service of soldiers, to raise awareness of the trials soldiers endure while deployed, and encourage communities to take action to help returning vets reintegrate into their communities. All performances feature a local touring company directed by Tom Gleadow, who's had recurring roles at Trinity Rep and other regional theaters in New England and New York. The goal is to assemble a diverse audience for each performance, reaching out to recent veterans, ROTC cadets and faculty, older veterans and their families, along with students and community members.

Admission is free. For more information, call Blackstone River Theatre at 401-725-9272. Tickets will be available at the door or can be reserved at AjaxInRI.eventbrite.com.

Members of the cast of "Ajax," from left, Rachel Dulude, Beth Alianiello and Marc Tiberiis, rehearse a scene from the play.