The BJU Theatre Department is collaborating with the Health Sciences Association and the BJU ROTC program to produce Philoctetes, a Greek play with a modern twist.
Philoctetes is the story of a hero archer in the Trojan War who is bitten by a sacred snake whose venom causes incredible pain. His fellow soldiers abandon him for nine years until an oracle sends them back to retrieve the hero’s sacred bow.
The play, a thesis project for second year graduate students Beth Adkins and Harrison Miller, was written by Sophocles 2,500 years ago for Greek soldiers. But the modern translation selected by Adkins and Miller was done by Bryan Doerries, author of Theater of War and co-founder of Theater of War Productions.
Philoctetes is one of many Greek plays Doerries’ company uses to reach military personnel and their families confronting difficult topics such as mental health, social justice, domestic violence and death.
More information on Theater of War Productions and its topics is available at theaterofwar.com.
A common feature of Doerries’ productions is a “talkback” held after the play. During the talkback, audience members discuss the themes of the play and what they meant personally.
Miller, who is directing the play, is proud to follow in the tradition by offering a talkback after Philoctetes on its theme of chronic pain. Miller said a theatre faculty member mentioned the play to Dr. Hannah Benge, faculty adviser to the HSA. Benge jumped at the chance to provide a panel for the talkback. The panel will feature doctors, a chaplain and students who will speak on chronic pain from their professional or personal experiences.
To Adkins, stage manager and technical director of Philoctetes, the play and following talkback make the perfect bridge between two communities—those who have trouble communicating their chronic pain and those who have trouble understanding it.
The panel will feature faculty members of BJU’s Division of Health Sciences including Dr. Hannah Benge on Thursday, Dr. Jessica Minor and Dr. Marc Chetta on Friday and Dr. Bernard Kadio on Saturday. Chaplain Steven Brown will add a military perspective. Students who suffer from chronic pain will also speak, and the audience will be given their opportunity as well.
Adkins is also working with ROTC personnel to choreograph military cadences. A cadence will be the preshow to Philoctetes.
According to Adkins, the play’s military focus pushes the phrase “no man left behind” to its ultimate limit.
Social media promotion for Philoctetes features the hashtag #willyoustay. Adkins said this is a direct challenge to the audience, referencing the difficulty of experiencing the play’s theme live.
Wilbur Mauk, first year theatre graduate student playing the show’s titular main character, said the audience will share the plight of the soldiers in the play who must sit in a room with a man in intense—and vocal—pain.
According to Miller, Philoctetes holds an important message for the BJU community, which includes many who deal with chronic pain. “This play deals honestly with suffering,” Miller said. “But it is also hopeful in its message about reconciliation—but also honest about what reconciliation looks like.”
Miller and Adkins chose Philoctetes as their thesis project because of their passion for building a community that gives a voice to those who go unheard. “There’s something going on in the world that is happening whether you want it to or not,” Miller said. “And you need to sit down and listen to this story.”
The play will be performed at 7:30 p.m. March 5 to 7 at Omega Lake. In the case of inclement weather, it will move to Performance Hall. Tickets can be purchased at bju.universitytickets.com for $8.