Many female combatants in the U.S. Armed Services are subjected to intense sexual abuse, but remain quiet. Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble opens its 2014 season with a Los Angeles premiere directed by artistic director John Farmanesh-Bocca. Ajax in Iraq by award-winning playwright Ellen Mclaughlin opens at the Miles Playhouse in Santa Monica for a four-week run on May 8.
Ajax in Iraq intertwines the important and timely issue of sexual abuse against women in the military with the parable of the great warrior Ajax, which is said to be one of the first and oldest stories to openly portray the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Last year, more active-duty soldiers killed themselves than died in combat,” says Farmanesh-Bocca. “After a decade of deployments to war zones, the Pentagon is bracing for things to get much worse. Light must be shed on the subject. Action must be taken to return our veterans home, unscathed by our own people or by neglect. The action we take as artists is to produce Ellen’s electrifying play to get the conversation going. This play’s unique time traveling connection perfectly demonstrates how modern warfare has changed so much since ancient times, and yet not at all.”
Not Man Apart has developed a following both overseas and in their home state of California. The Hollywood Reporter praises NMA as a “futuristic theater company,” the Los Angeles Times calls the company “exhilarating and propulsive… exciting and innovative,” and the British Theatre Guide says “startlingly refreshing.”
NMA Physical Theatre Ensemble generates innovative physical works of theater while contributing educational and transformational experiences. Founded in 2004 in northern California, the award-winning company has toured two shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and is a recipient of the coveted Edinburgh Fringe First Award. NMA outreach programs include the annual student-driven educational and performance series Shakespeare Santa Monica (summer), Somatic Movement Arts Festival (fall) and Improv Dance Fest (winter). NMA made Los Angeles its home in 2009, premiering both Pericles Redux (2009) and Titus Redux (2010) at the Kirk Douglas Theatre and reprising Titus Redux a year later as part of RADAR L.A. In 2011, NMA was commissioned by the Getty Villa to adapt and stage the rarely done Roman tragedy Hercules Furens in a workshop performance. NMA then performed Eduardo Machado’s Lysistrata Unbound starring Olympia Dukakis at the Villa in 2013. That June, the company presented Hercules Furens in a fully completed world premiere production at the Miles Memorial Playhouse. With a mission to create highly athletic and innovative theatrical events which are both life affirming and consciousness expanding, and to establish a new kind of physical theater genre that is exciting, relevant, accessible and all inclusive, NMA strives to be one of the premier physical theater ensembles of the Americas.
Aaron Hendry (NMA’s Lysistrata Unbound opposite Olympia Dukakis; company member, Theatricum Botanicum; former member of Diavolo Dance Theatre) stars as Ajax. Emma Bell (currently seen on TNT’s Dallas; recurring roles on The Walking Dead and The Bedford Diaries) plays Athena; and Courtney Munch (previous NMA productions of Titus Redux, Hercules Furens and Lysistrata Unbound) is A.J., the modern-day female American soldier whose journey parallels that of the ancient hero. Also in the cast, each playing multiple roles as the story flashes back and forth between the Iraq and Trojan Wars, are Steven Beaudion, Alina Bolshakova, Chelsea Brynd, Laura Covelli, Eric Naficy Dyrhsen, West Perkinson, Brandon Hitchcock, Ashphord Jacoway, Dash Pepin, Camron Robertson, Carol Sparkman, Ivanna Wei and Jonathan Wong.
Sound design for Ajax in Iraq is by Adam Phalen; lighting direction is by Jessica Kohn; costume design is by Catherine Baumgardner; choreography is by John Farmanesh-Bocca, Jones Welsh and NMA Company; and production stage managers are Benji Kaufman, Kyle Gladfelter and Jessica Westerfield. NMA associate artistic directors are Jones Welsh, Laura Covelli and Aaron Hendry.
Ajax in Iraq opens on Thursday, May 8, with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. through June 1. Tickets are $25; Student Rush Thursdays: $10 at the door, subject to availability. The Miles Memorial Playhouse is located at 1130 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403 (just north of Wilshire Blvd.). Free event parking is available at the underground garage serving the 808 Wilshire Building., entry on Lincoln (just south of Wilshire Blvd.). For reservations and information, visit www.NotManApart.com or call (818) 618-4772.