Linfield College theatre students will explore the timeless struggle of soldiers and war when they present “Ajax in Iraq,” a play inspired by interviews with Iraq war veterans and their families. The production will run Nov. 7-9 and 14-16 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. in the Marshall Theatre in Ford Hall at Linfield.
Past and present collide in Ellen McLaughlin’s mash-up of Sophocles’ classic tragedy “Ajax” with the modern day war in Iraq. The play follows the parallel narratives of Ajax, an ancient Greek military hero, and A.J., a modern female soldier, both undone by the betrayal of a commanding officer. Athena, goddess of war coolly presides over the whole play, which explores the struggles soldiers face in trying to make sense of war.
McLaughlin’s plays have earned national and international accolades. Her plays include “Days and Nights Within,” “A Narrow Bed,” “Iphigenia and Other Daughters” and “The Trojan Women.” She has taught playwriting at Barnard College since 1995.
The 17-member cast of “Ajax in Iraq” consists of Linfield students and faculty, in addition to several students working on design elements of the show. Junior Daniel Bradley will play Ajax and junior Alley Halley will play A.J. The role of Athena will be played by three women – visiting French Fulbright teaching assistant Amandine Gravier, freshman Amanda Kern and senior Kristie Castanera.
During rehearsals, students spent time listening to veterans’ stories to better understand the issues they are portraying. Additionally, they took part in a “boot camp” to prepare for their roles. Four rehearsals included an hour-long WOD (Workout of the Day), led by McMinnville Crossfit owner JP Kloninger and fight choreographer Ted deChatelet. The workouts simulated physical training for soldiers and provided camaraderie and morale-building, which soldiers experience in boot camp.
“Being ‘there’ for the other person is a big theme in the play,” said Janet Gupton, director and associate professor of theatre arts at Linfield. This show is part of the PLACE (Program for Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement) Initiative and is sponsored by the Department of Theatre and Communication Arts. The play contains mature subject matter, graphic violence and adult language, and is not suitable for all audiences.
Two post-show discussions will be held after the performances to discuss some of the prevalent issues raised in the play. On Thursday, Nov. 7, a post-show discussion, “Women and the Military: Serving in Uniform or Supporting at Home,” will look at the challenges that women soldiers as well as spouses of soldiers face. The second post-show discussion will be on Friday, Nov. 15, and is titled “Veterans: Serving Those Who’ve Served Us.” This discussion will examine the challenges faced by soldiers returning to civilian life and how those at home can prepare and help that transition. Both post-show discussions are free and open to the public. Attendance at the performance, while recommended, is not required.
Tickets will go on sale Tuesday, Oct. 29. Tickets are $9 for full price; $7 for seniors and Linfield faculty and staff; and $5 for students (any age, any school); with a $2 discount on all tickets on opening night. Seating is reserved. Tickets are available at http://www.linfield.edu/arts, by phone or at the Marshall Theatre Box Office. Located in the lobby of Ford Hall, the box office is open Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 5 p.m., and until 7:30 p.m. on performance days. The box office will also be open Nov. 9 and 16 from 3 to 7:30 p.m. and from noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10. The box office is closed Mondays. Produced by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc., www.playscripts.com
For more information, call 503-883-2292. The Marshall Theatre is fully accessible.