Bryan Doerries

Writer, Director, Translator
Founder of Theater of War

Readings &
Lecture Topics
  • Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today
  • Prometheus in Prison
  • The Dionysus Project
  • Domestic Violence Project
  • Facing the End of Life
  • Antigone in Ferguson
  • Hercules in Brooklyn
  • The Audience as Translator

Biography

“Bryan Doerries is activating an old alchemy for our young century. Ancient stories, and texts that have stood the test of time, can be portals to honest and dignified grappling with present wounds and longings, and callings that we aren’t able to muster in our official places now.” –Krista Tippett

Brooklyn-based writer, director, translator, and lecturer, Bryan Doerries is cofounder and Artistic Director of Theater of War Productions, a social impact company that uses theater to address pressing social and public health issues and present them to at-risk people in society. Featuring prominent film and stage actors in staged readings of plays from Antigone to Long Days Journey Into Night—each production followed by provocative and intimate audience discussion—he addresses head on issues such as combat-related psychological injury, PTSD, gun violence, police/community relations, end of life care, suicide, prison reform, political violence and torture, domestic violence, alcohol/substance abuse and addiction, and natural and manmade disasters. Viewing the Greek Tragedies not only as storytelling but a profound means of truth-telling, Doerries is a self-described evangelist for classical literature and its relevance to our lives today. Through his many and diverse theater projects (synopses of the active projects may be read below), Doerries uses age-old approaches to communalize the trauma and help communities and individuals heal from trauma and loss. He shows us how suffering and healing are part of a timeless process in which dialogue and empathy are inextricably linked. “Our objective is to bridge the divide,” Doerries says, “to raise consciousness, and move us to positive action.”

Doerries is the founder of Theater of War, a project that reclaims the power of the ancient Greek texts and presents readings to military and civilian communities—service members, veterans, caregivers, and families—to initiate conversations about the the visible and invisible wounds of war. Plays like Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes convey the story of the warrior, but also read like textbook descriptions of wounded warriors, struggling under the weight of psychological and physical injuries to maintain their dignity, identity, and honor—in other words, they speak directly to the men and women who today live lives of mythological proportions. Hailed by the Department of Defense as a “revolutionary public health campaign,” Doerries’s groundbreaking Theater of War has presented over 350 performances of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes for military and civilian audiences throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan, performing at military sites as diverse as the Pentagon, Guantanamo Bay, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, homeless shelters, high school auditoriums, theaters, and churches.

In fall 2016, Doerries unveils two new traveling productions that ask deeply relevant questions about how we should respond to unthinkable violence, and how we can all work together—as citizens, family members, friends, and neighbors—to stop violence from happening in our communities, before it’s too late. With titles that will change according to the city in which they are performed, the inaugural projects based on ancient Greek tragedies are Antigone in Ferguson: Sophocles’ Antigone showing us what happens when personal conviction and state law clash, and violence ensues; and Hercules in Brooklyn: Euripides’ Madness of Hercules showing us an unthinkable act of violence commitment by an angry man with an invincible weapon. These two dramatic readings, followed by dialogue with the audience, serve to foster awareness and understanding of the lasting impact of gun violence upon individuals, families, and communities—with compassion, understanding, and positive action the end goal.

In 2015, Knopf published The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today, along with All That You’ve Seen Here is God, a volume of Doerries’s translations of ancient Greek tragedies. Gary Trudeau wrote, “Bryan Doerries’s passionate search for meaning in ancient texts has led him out of the dusty stacks of scholarship into an arena of ecstatic public engagement. He has created a theatrical experience that has lifted countless audiences out of isolation and into profound community.” His graphic novel, The Odyssey of Sergeant Jack Brennan, an adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey as told by an infantry Marine to his squad, was published by Pantheon in 2016. This fall his translations of Sophocles’ Oedipus Trilogy will be published through Penguin Random House with an emphasis on the contemporary relevance of these classic Greek tragedies.

Bryan lectures on his work at cultural venues throughout the world and, in recent years, has taught courses at Princeton University, the Stella Adler School of Acting, and the Bard Prison Initiative. He is a proud board member of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, Arts in the Armed Forces, and Friends of the Young Writers Workshop.

ACTIVE PROJECTS & PRODUCTIONS

Acclaimed Actors Who Participate in Dramatic Readings
More than 150 acclaimed actors have participated in these projects, including: Jake Gyllenhaal, Frances McDormand, Alfred Molina, John Turturro, Martin Sheen, Blythe Danner, Jesse Eisenberg, Kathryn Erbe, Paul Giamatti, Charles S. Dutton, Terrence Howard, David Strathairn, Amy Ryan, Debra Winger, Dianne Wiest, and Jeffrey Wright.

Theater of War
Hailed by the Department of Defense as a “revolutionary public health campaign,” Theater of War is a groundbreaking project that presents readings of ancient Greek War plays—Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes—in military and civilian communities as a catalyst for powerful, facilitated discussions about the visible and invisible wounds of war. To date, Theater of War has been performed for more than 75,000 service members, concerned citizens, veterans, and their families all over the world.

Antigone in Ferguson
Antigone in Ferguson presents dramatic readings by acclaimed actors of scenes from Sophocles’ Antigone—an ancient Greek tragedy about what happens when personal conviction and state law clash, and violence ensues—for a large, diverse audiences composed of concerned citizens, members of faith communities, and members of the law enforcement community, with the goal of generating powerful dialogue between these communities, fostering compassion, understanding, and positive action.

Hercules in Brooklyn
Hercules in Brooklyn presents dramatic readings of scenes from Euripides’ Madness of Hercules—an ancient Greek tragedy about an unthinkable act of violence commitment by an angry man with an invincible weapon— for audiences composed of concerned citizens, members of the law enforcement community, victims and perpetrators of gun violence, and the general public, in order to generate powerful dialogue between these communities, fostering awareness and understanding of the lasting impact of gun violence upon individuals, families, and communities.

Prometheus in Prison
Prometheus in Prison presents readings of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound for corrections professionals as a catalyst for guided discussions about the challenges of supervising and rehabilitating prisoners in both correctional facilities and in communities. The project has been performed in maximum security prisons in the US and UK and in the detention camps of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Medea & Phaedra: Tragedies of Passion, Betrayal, and Revenge
Doerries leads an evening of performance and dialogue examining Euripides’ Medea and Seneca’s Phaedra, two ancient plays that timelessly depict ho scorned passion can lead to revenge and, sometimes, unthinkable violence. Is Media mentally is, and, if so, how do we understand the chilling logic of her decision to kill her own children? What drives Phaedra to deceive her husband and attempt to seduce her stepson? In a world in which children are often the unwitting victims of dissolving marriage and predatory individual, how do we advocate for and protect the innocent?

The Dionysus Project
The Dionysus Project is an innovative public health project that presents readings of scenes from Euripides’ Bacchae, an ancient Greek play about the destructive power of intoxication, as a catalyst for town hall discussions about the impact of substance abuse and addiction upon individuals, families, and communities. The project engage audiences in crucial discussions about the timelessness of the human struggle with substance abuse and addiction, as well as resources and solutions that communities can utilize today. A related project presents readings of Conor McPherson’s one man play Rum and Vodka on military installations as a catalyst for town hall discussions about alcoholism, substance abuse, and addiction.

Addiction Performance Project
Originally developed with the support of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Addiction Performance Project presents dramatic readings of Long Day’s Journey into Night, Act III in medical settings and in communities that have been devastated by substance abuse and addiction, as a catalyst for open discussions about impact of addiction upon individuals, families, and communities.

Domestic Violence Project
The Domestic Violence Project is a public health project that presents dramatic readings of scenes from Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire as a catalyst for town-hall discussions about the impact of domestic violence on individuals, couples, children, caregivers, and communities. The goal of the project is to create a safe space for dialogue about abusive and manipulative behaviors, power struggles and violence, the lasting impact of experiencing or witnessing violence in one’s home, and the role of support systems in these circumstances. These performances, and the dynamic, interactive discussions that follow, are designed to evoke empathy, break down stigmas, and greatly reduce tolerance for manipulative behaviors and domestic violence.

End of Life
End of Life presents dramatic readings of Sophocles’ Women of Trachis, about the death of the Greek hero Hercules, as a catalyst for town hall discussions about the challenges faced by medical professionals and caregivers who work in the fields of palliative care, hospice, geriatrics, and nursing. The selected scenes from the two plays present emotionally charged, ethically complex situations involving suffering patients and conflicted caregivers, providing an ancient perspective on contemporary medical issues.

Book of Job
The Book of Job Project presents dramatic readings from The Book of Job, an ancient Hebrew poem about how humans behave when bad things happen to good people, as a catalyst for audience discussions about the lasting impact of natural and manmade disasters upon individuals, families, and communities.

Short Bio

Bryan Doerries is a New York-based writer, director, and translator who currently serves as Artistic Director of Theater of War Productions, a company that presents dramatic readings of seminal plays and texts to frame community conversations about pressing issues of public health and social justice. A self-described evangelist for ancient stories and their relevance to our lives today, Doerries uses age-old approaches to help individuals and communities heal from trauma and loss. Doerries’ books include The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today, The Odyssey of Sergeant Jack Brennan, All That You’ve Seen Here is God, and Oedipus Trilogy. Among his awards, he has received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Kenyon College, and in March 2017, he was named Public Artist in Residence for the City of New York. For more information about his work, please visit: www.theaterofwar.com.

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