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‘Ajax’ of all trades

Ajax is the title character in the American Repertory Theater’s new play, but you may also know him as a great warrior of the Trojan War and Homer’s “The Iliad.”

Ajax is the title character in the American Repertory Theater’s new play, but you may also know him as a great warrior of the Trojan War and Homer’s “The Iliad.” As he struggles to maintain his dignity and honor in a society that has changed after war, he fights for the honor of receiving the fallen hero Achilles’ armor, but when Odysseus receives it instead, Ajax falls into a rage and ends up killing himself in shame.

The story is about 4,000 years old, so we didn’t feel we needed to put a spoiler alert in there. Despite the tale’s age, director Sarah Benson couldn’t help but see its relevance in our political landscape today.

“The more I started thinking about the play, I just started to see Ajax’s story everywhere,” she says. “There was a huge sort of epidemic of military suicides.”

In preparation for the play, Benson spoke to members of our nation’s armed forces.

“I was actually surprised about how many soldiers knew the story of Ajax. Even the ones who didn’t, once I gave them the nutshell, everyone drew parallels with the situations they have been in,” Benson says.

In the end, Benson says that she hopes viewers will not only have their own personal responses to Ajax’s story, but also a new understanding of that part of the community in society.

“It’s a challenging time for people,” Benson says. “I think that the play really speaks to that, and how hard it is when the whole landscape shifts around you, which is exactly what happens to Ajax.”

 
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