When Bryan Doerries ’98 set out to found his theater project, Theater of War, he wanted to address psychological injuries that were haunting members of the military. The former Kenyon classics major thought Greek tragedies, such as Sophocles’ “Ajax,” might offer lessons for veterans and military families in how to manage traumatic experiences, and he wanted to use the timeless plays as a catalyst for conversations about dark, complex issues.
For their tremendous efforts, Doerries and his company have earned coverage in the New York Times, NPR, Entertainment Weekly and the New Yorker (among other outlets), and the Theater of War project was the subject of an extensive profile in Harper’s Magazine in October 2014. Now, nearly 10 years after the project’s founding, Doerries and his company are unleashing the power of their theater on a new audience: college students. On Feb. 23 in Rosse Hall, Theater of War Productions presented Kenyon students with “TAPE,” a play written by Stephen Belber that tells the story of three acquaintances who recall what may have been a sexual assault.
The dramatic table reading of the play was presented by Josh Hamilton, who has played roles in “Manchester by the Sea,” “J. Edgar” and “Madame Secretary”; longtime “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” star Kathryn Erbe; Brendan Griffin ’02, known for his work in “Generation Kill” and Broadway’s “Clybourne Park”; and Josh Hamilton, who has played roles in “Manchester by the Sea” and “Madame Secretary.” Hamilton also starred in “House of Yes,” the 1997 film based on the play of the same name by Playwright-in-Residence and Professor of Drama Wendy MacLeod ’81 P’15, ’17.
The version of “TAPE” that was presented at Kenyon was produced by Marjolaine Goldsmith, a recent Oberlin College graduate who reframed the project so it more specifically addressed issues of consent and sexual misconduct on college campuses. The event at Kenyon was one of the company’s first presentations of “TAPE” geared directly toward college students.
“The approach ‘TAPE’ brings to sexual misconduct education is unique and I expect will be quite powerful,” said Samantha Hughes, civil rights and Title IX coordinator, before the performance. “It is my hope that audience members will leave understanding that listening, supporting and believing a person is more important than trying to assign a label on an incident that happened to someone else.”
After Erbe, Griffin and Hamilton read scenes from “TAPE,” student panelists Abigail Armato ’17, Quashae Hendryx ’18, Catherine Smith ’20 and Sam Troper ’18 shared their reactions. Doerries then guided the audience in an intense discussion of the issues that were addressed in the play, such as power dynamics and consent. Students debated how to place labels on sexual experiences and how to grapple with gray areas around consent, and they shared their thoughts on who should have the power to define their sexual experiences.
“Whose story is it, who gets to tell it, and where does the power reside?” Doerries said, summarizing part of the discussion.