Between April 16 and April 26, the Theatre and Dance division of Elizabethtown College’s Fine and Performing Arts Department presented their production of Ellen McLaughlin’s play “Ajax in Iraq.” The play offered a mash-up of Sophocles’ classic tragedy “Ajax” with the modern Iraq War. The play follows the story of two heroes: Ajax, an ancient Greek hero fighting against the Trojans, and A.J., a modern female American soldier. The play was inspired by material collected from interviews with Iraq veterans and their families and explores the timeless struggle soldiers face in trying to make sense of war.
“This show was definitely different from the other shows the College has performed this semester. It was really edgy, and the cast performed the play very well,” sophomore Michaela Fetterolf said.
The play was a very interesting choice for the College, given their recent affinity for selecting comedies over tragedies. Past productions this semester have included “Company” by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth and “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde. Given the theme of “Ajax in Iraq,” it was no surprise the actors found themselves going about their roles in new ways.
“It was a very intense show. It was very much a trial and error with the play. It was a lot of the actors and the director bouncing ideas off each other, so it was interesting to see these characters come to life. It was a very collaborative process,” sophomore and stage manager Julianna Krampf said.
“Ajax in Iraq” is a play that relies heavily on the timelessness of war and how no matter the time period, the struggles and turmoils are ultimately the same. While the topic of war can be a sensitive theme, many students found it somewhat refreshing to be able to hear a discussion of such issues through a creative medium.
“I enjoyed the show very much. I think that it addressed a serious topic that isn’t usually talked about. The cast did a very good job conveying the issue to the audience,” sophomore Alisha Curreri said.
An interesting and quite controversial part of the play is its critique of the war in Iraq. Throughout the play, soldiers discuss the things they have seen and done because of war and the multitude of questions they find themselves asking. The idea of understanding war, and what it is ultimately good for, are some things even soldiers have a hard time figuring out and “Ajax in Iraq” made sure to bring this to the forefront of the play.
“I think the message of the play is about how America acted in Iraq and was very critical of the Bush administration. Personally, I am not very knowledgeable about politics, but I definitely think this issue needs to be discussed and this show provides the framework for that conversation,” sophomore Jason Mountain said.
A rather sensitive topic within the play was the role sexual assault played in the life of A.J., a female soldier in the war in Iraq. Through much of the play, A.J. was experiencing sexual abuse from her Sergeant, a fact she kept hidden from everyone else. This ultimately shapes A.J. throughout the play and provides her character’s motivation.
“I think it was really special that we did this show, especially right now, because there’s so much in the news about sexual assault,” Krampf said.
Overall, the play was a very large success within the College and sparked many conversations that might not have begun otherwise. The play created a nice segue for discussion about issues, such as war and sexual assault among students and faculty.
The play “Ajax in Iraq” was staged in connection with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. After the production, the department collected donations that would go toward the Wounded Warrior Foundation.