On May 6th a packed theater had the privilege of experiencing the story of AJAX through powerful readings and the personal stories from panelists.
Theater of War: AJAX is an ancient Greek play written by Sophocles’ focusing on the suicide of Ajax, a great and respected warrior. After slipping into depression from the ravages of the Trojan War, Ajax experiences a moment of madness with his wife and commanding officers trying to desperately help him. In the end Ajax decides to take his own life but the story reflects on the demons within Ajax as well as the effects of his suicide on his family.
Brian Doerries, the artistic director of Theater of War Productions, has a goal of bringing this play all over New York City through using prominent actors and panelists knowledgeable in the story’s themes along with audience involvement. This night the story of Ajax was brought to the Pregones and Puerto Rican Traveling Theater.
Recently, Doerries was named public artist in residence by the Department of Veterans Services and Department of Cultural Affairs because of his outreach of bringing issues on PTSD and Veteran suicide to light through this play.
Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services, Loree Sutton, opened the play by explaining the services offered by her department and going over some of the major themes in the story. Chirlane McCray, wife of Mayor Bill de Blasio, spoke about her own experiences with her father, a Veteran, and how his struggle with PTSD affected the family. “My father would shut down and not talk to us for days at a time.” explained McCray, going on to say, “Me and my siblings never really talked about this because it was the norm to us.”
McCray also went on to tout NYC Well, a new initiative from the City of New York to combat mental illness, physical harm, and suicide. “I wanted to create a real mental health service where people and Veterans can get support where they feel comfortable.” McCray said. NYC Well allows people seeking help to either call, text, or chat online with mental health representatives that can guide them to resources or simply provide a caring ear. So far, according to McCray, NYC Well has helped over 1,000 Veterans since its launch.