On Nov. 20, the curtains of Hadley Theatre will rise to welcome Queens University’s fall play, “Ajax in Iraq.” The play updates the ancient story of a Grecian warrior, Ajax, by placing him in Iraq. The production also discusses the after-effects of war among veterans and soldiers. The topics at hand are Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), suicide and rape in military platoons.
According to a 2009 study by the National Institute of Health, PTSD affects 7.7 million American adults. Two years later, a startling statistic appeared in the Pentagon’s fiscal report as reported by the New York Times: A soldier is 15 times more likely to be raped by a comrade than killed by the enemy.The daring selection of this play brings controversial yet necessary discussions into the Queens community.
Upon reading the script by Ellen McLaughlin, director Jerry Colbert knew that this play would be an asset to the Queens community.
“We don’t send old people to fight wars,” Colbert said. “The soldiers who are fighting and dying are your generation…we’ve even had veterans come back from Iraq to become students here at Queens.” Shifting his gaze to the soon-to-be filled seats of the theatre he said, “This is part of our community. It is important that students who may not be acquainted with what’s going on be made more aware of what going on and the way this can affect their lives.”
Connor Gagnon, a freshman actor in the play reflected on his reaction to the choice, “My initial reaction was surprise because of how adult the themes were.”
This is one of the first plays here at Queens that discovers such serious and recent topics. Gagnon said he feels a great deal of “excitement so that [he] could stretch [himself] as a performer.”
Gagnon is one of many students who seem to grasp the seriousness of the play. The young acts maintain their maturity in the face of the issues at hand. The mood in recent rehearsals, from start to finish, because of their maturity, has been somber.
“[The community] needs to see the play because it actually talks about the effects of war,” said freshman actor Jonathan Smith. The story has made the actors more aware these issues that are “an ‘out of sight out of mind’ thing unless your family is directly impacted,” said Smith. The military is glorified in our society, but we often fail to acknowledge that there are illnesses, both visible and invisible, that linger even after service.
Son of a World War II veteran and firsthand witness of the social changes at the Vietnam War, Colbert is someone who considers himself directly impacted. “We as a country have soldiers serving us who are still dying in foreign countries, and they’re not being taken care of when they come home,” he said. “Their families are suffering. They are suffering. This play addresses all of those issues.”
From Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. each night, visit the Hadley Theatre to see Ajax in action.
“PTSD: A Growing Epidemic.” National Institute of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/ medlineplus/magazine/issues/winter09/articles/winter09pg10-14.html.
“Pentagon Report on Sexual Assualt in the Military in 2012.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/05/08/us/politics/08military-doc.html?_r=0