SNF Grant Supports PAIR Project in New York City

Bryan Doerries, Artistic Director of Theater of War Productions, is New York City’s newest Public Artist in Residence, a program supported by the SNF. Photo by Grayson Dantzic

NEW YORK – The New York City Department of Veterans’ Services and Department of Cultural Affairs named Bryan Doerries, Artistic Director of Theater of War Productions, as the City’s newest Public Artist in Residence (PAIR) at an event on Wednesday, March 1 at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch.

The two-year residency, which will bring theater-based projects to all five boroughs, marks the second collaboration between the two agencies as part of the expanded PAIR program, created to enhance the City’s services through creative practice. The project, made possible through a $1,365,000 grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), will be the first city-wide public health program implemented by the Department of Veterans’ Services.

Doerries was selected to be the City’s latest PAIR based on the broad impact of his work as co-founder of Theater of War Productions, which presents programs that address the enduring impact of war as well as broader community issues such as gun violence, mental health, addiction, prison reform, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is a co-producer of the residency as part of its commitment to being a resource and advocate for civic engagement, education, artistic expression, and a safe haven for public discourse.
The project will combine theater and public forums that engage both veterans and civilians in community-specific performances that foster health and healing through open discussion and exchange. Over the next two years, the free events will take place in more than 60 venues across New York, including public libraries, with each of the projects tailored to the needs of different communities.

The centerpiece of the event was a reading from classic texts with noted actors Reg E. Cathey, Anthony Edwards, Kathryn Erbe, Paul Giamatti, Zach Grenier, Amy Ryan, Tamara Tunie, and Mare Winningham alongside City officials Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Stelios Vasilakis- SNF Director of Programs & Strategic Initiatives.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Theater of War’s singular approach to addressing social issues through performance will bring classical Greek plays to life for a modern, diverse audience of communities across New York City. Thanks to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, this unique partnership between city agencies, the library system, and Bryan Doerries’ extraordinary theater company will demonstrate the powerful ability of art to address issues that face our society at a time when protecting and promoting our shared values is more important than ever.”

In his remarks, Vasilakis said, “We are deeply honored and proud of the opportunity to support Bryan’s residency as the city’s newest Public Artist in collaboration with the City of New York, and specifically the NYC Department of Veterans’ Services and the Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as the Brooklyn Public Library. The scale of this project, over 60 performances across all five boroughs, is such that the magnitude of its impact for thousands of veterans, their families and their communities can be extraordinary.

The ability of performances of Greek tragedies to induce ritualized catharsis, rests upon the elemental fact that the ancient theater functioned as a truly public space, a space where the community convened to debate and collectively share experiences. This had to become, by definition a non-polarized space. And this is something for all of us to consider in today’s political and social environment.”

SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos could not attend the event, but sent a statement: “It is our great honor to support this powerful initiative that aims to help improve the lives of thousands of veterans, their families and their communities across New York City. It is only through these broad collaborations by means of public and private partnerships that such work and efforts to impact thousands of people can be maximized. In our work in New York, Greece, and around the world, the Foundation is committed to actions that help transform the lives of people and communities most in need. With this project, we are especially proud to continue our collaboration with Bryan Doerries, and help his efforts to address the devastating consequences of PTSD for thousands of veterans and their communities, through the staged reading of classical Greek tragedies and the process of ritualized catharsis they induce.”

The first Theater of War PAIR event will be held at The Greene Space at WNYC in Manhattan on March 20. The cast will include Paul Giamatti, Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, and Reg E. Cathey reading from two plays by Sophocles Ajax and Philoctetes.

The event will be live-streamed in full on the Stavros Niarchos Foundation website, and an excerpt of the program will be recorded for The New Yorker Radio Hour. The first community-based events have also been scheduled including Theater of War at Brooklyn Public Library’s Crown Heights branch on April 6; the Main Auditorium at Susan Wagner High School, Staten Island on April 14; Rockaway Theatre Company in Rockaway, Queens on April 17; and the Pregones + Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in the Bronx on May 6. All events will be free and open to the public.

“It has been profoundly humbling to work with women and men who have lived lives of mythological proportions, who have loved and lost, and who know the meaning of sacrifice,” said Doerries. “We are deeply honored and grateful for this opportunity to bring our work to veterans and other populations all over the City, using timeless stories to help communities build a shared vocabulary for discussing trauma and isolation, but also resilience and paths toward healing.”

Further details on the residency and upcoming events will be announced at a later date on www.theaterofwar.nyc.