In 1919, as the world grappled with what the First World War meant for civilization, Columbia University initiated a daily course entitled “Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West.”
The Core Curriculum Columbia students follow today, a century later, took shape out of attempts to seek humanistic approaches to the inhuman horrors of war. As Columbia’s Core celebrates its hundredth anniversary, the University is partnering with another organization that turns to the humanities in attempting to process the experience of war.
Theater of War Productions, a company that uses literary classics and the Classics to broach difficult but important conversations, has brought its eponymous project to Columbia University this fall. The Theater of War project explores the psychological impacts of war on those who fight through the lens of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes.
In two October master classes at the University, Artistic Director Bryan Doerries, actors, mental health professionals, and veterans demonstrated Theater of War’s approach to using ancient texts to engage diverse audiences in challenging discussions with scenes from Sophocles’ Ajax.
On November 6 and 7, Theater of War is staging readings from Ajax, followed by its signature town hall-style discussions, for Core Curriculum students and the public. Both events, taking place in New York City at and near Columbia, are free with advance registration.
Theater has presented a range of other projects in New York this fall, including The Drum Major Instinct, the King Lear Project, and the Addiction Performance Project. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) has provided significant repeated support to Theater of War as the company has expanded it offerings and exclusively supported a free ten-week run of the company’s powerful Antigone in Ferguson in Brooklyn this past summer.