On October 29, 2018 at 4 P.M., the Performing Arts Center at Valencia’s East Campus hosted the Theatre of War crew and their readings from Sophocles’ play Philoctetes. Theatre of War is a public health project that utilizes timeless plays as propellers to awaken discussions among the audience, as an attempt of prodding at the rawness of what it means to be human, especially for veterans, people in service, and their respective family members.
Philoctetes is a play set during the Trojan War. It orbits around the story of a prestigious Greek warrior who was left behind in an island due to an illness. That warrior was Philoctetes, who according to Greek mythology, was the son of King Poeas of Thessaly.
The cast consisted of Artistic Director Bryan Doerries as Odysseus and the Chorus, Josh Hamilton as Philoctetes, and Marjolaine Goldsmith as Neoptolemus. Their visceral ways of emoting showed in their gut-wrenching performances. Hamilton’s theatrical yet realistic portrayal of Philoctetes stunned the audience with his terrifying grace. Goldsmith’s performance as Neoptolemus was unparalleled, lending the character a tremendous grit and realism. Through her heart-rending performance, Goldsmith made Neoptolemus’s suffering relatable. Lastly, Doerries’ performance as Odysseus functioned as a primary pillar of the performance.
After the actors delivered their masterful performances, the four panelists took to the stage to discuss the ancient, possibly mythical war portrayed in the play, as well as their own experiences, either passive or active, with literal war. The panelists were Joshua Bowes, a US Army combat veteran who had a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is a student at Valencia College; Dr. Tyon Hall, the current Director for the Orlando Vet Center; John Gill, a US Marine Corps Veteran who is now serving in the US Army reserve; and Dr. Tracy Wharton, a military family member. The four panelists each shared their experiences, combining them into one brilliant beacon of awareness. They fleshed out their stories of alienation, patriotism, fear, and camaraderie in order to stop worrying about “making sense of the gods”.
Theatre of War’s production of Philoctetes was sincere, uncensored, and brilliant. It was quick-paced, fueled by profound intelligence and passion, and also, provided a commentary on the importance of history and its relationship with fiction and reality. Stories of war, regardless of time period or location, remain timeless and relatable today, especially for modern-day warriors who sacrifice so much for their country.
Image courtesy of Steven Sobel, Valencia College