From Odysseus to Odierno, 'Warrior Chorus' revives the classics

Peter Meineck is a New York University professor who had the idea to get American combat veterans – from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan – to read classical literature. These are the Classics, with a capital C, stories from the ancient Mediterranean worlds of Greece and Rome. They are filled with tales of great wars, the men who fought them, their voyages home, and what they found when they got there. These are the tales of warriors whose names echo through history: Odysseus, Philoctetes, Ajax, Hector, and many more.

"The Triumph of Achilles over Hector in Corfu" by Franz Matsch

“The Triumph of Achilles over Hector in Corfu” by Franz Matsch

Who better to read and interpret them now than the warriors of today? The combination of modern warriors and Classical terminology is what gives Meineck’s project its name: Warrior Chorus. In a Greek tragedy, the chorus was a group of players who would comment on the main action. They could simply talk or they could sing and dance. It’s an apt summation of what veterans do at Meineck’s Warrior Chorus. The veterans relate to the stories very differently than a Classics student, or even someone with a Ph.D.

“The veterans interpret the stories based on their own experience of service,” says Nathan Graeser from the University of Southern California’s Department of Social Work. USC is an important partner in Warrior Chorus.  The success of the program at New York’s Aquila Theatre (where Meineck is the founder and Artistic Director) earned a large grant for its work from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It’s now a national initiative focused on three regional centers in New York, Austin, and Los Angeles. USC is the partner bringing it to Southern California.

“This is about a public conversation with these classics,” Graeser says. “To engage in a deeper conversation about how the ethics and dilemmas of war are still in existence and how we see those through our current veterans, from Vietnam and further on.”

Graeser is not just a social worker but also a member of the Armed Forces. As a chaplain in the National Guard, he sees the power of service and the need to make the unique experiences more meaningful to those in the military.

PSC: LOW-RES PROOF REQ? = 0

A classical Greek Chorus as depicted on pottery from the era.

“The [Classical] chorus is interjected throughout a story. It doesn’t advance the story at all. It’s something that just comments on everything happening in the story,” Graeser explains. “The Warrior Chorus is really a way for warriors to one, have a voice in the public but also to offer some insights and their own perspectives to the public as a public.”

After the study period, the students produce live stagings, readings, workshops, lectures, and other presentations of their reflections based on their study of the books and their own interpretations. Warrior Chorus is centered around four themes, each of which are particularly insightful for present-day veterans to focus on and repaint their own understanding. They develop their own interest within the program and are guided by Warrior Chorus scholars. The most important aspect is that veterans present their own interpretation through their unique skills and interests.

2015_0304_webimages_20_aquila

A Warrior Chorus performer at the Aquila Theater in NYC

“Those that serve in today’s context, where the majority of people have not served, get back and now they are able to share their voice and be the modern day chorus,” He says. “Their’s is a definitive commentary on what it’s like to serve.”

The Los Angeles program is nearly finished with its study period and its veteran students will soon be creating their classical pieces for public consumption.

“I have been amazed at the great sense of solidarity between [the veterans] them as they’ve explored,” Graeser recalls. “As they’ve put pieces together in their own lives based off of what had happened 3,000 years ago, they come to say to themselves thing like: ‘No one ever listens to your story when you come home. Crazy. Oh my gosh, it’s always been this way.’ There’s something wonderfully normative about that, that they just feel like they’re suddenly in good company.”

TOP ARTICLES
This is the latest version of the M9 service pistol

The M9A3 offers a bigger magazine, a user-friendly grip, and a host of improvements based on lessons learned from over three decades of service.

This is what the DoD has planned for a zombie apocalypse

It does touch on many of the pop culture elements of zombie lore, but it breaks things down to become applicable to most situations that would similar to an actual outbreak.

Some dirtbags messed with an Iwo Jima memorial — and Marines caught 'em on film

Officials say an Iwo Jima memorial in Fall River was doused with the contents of a fire extinguisher last weekend. Police are investigating

Vets are going to get a new ID card, and they'll be ready for use next month

The new identification card will provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee's military service.

This is the story behind the rise and fall of the Islamic State group

The Islamic State group, responsible for some of the worst atrocities perpetrated against civilians in recent history, appears on the verge of collapse.

Now the Iraqi army is going after the Kurdish forces who helped beat ISIS

Iraqi federal and Kurdish forces exchanged fire on Oct. 20, capping a dramatic week that saw the Kurds hand over territory across Northern Iraq.

This Kurdish female militia refuses to stop its hunt for ISIS terrorists

A Kurdish female militia, after helping free the city of Raqqa, said it will continue the fight to liberate women from the extremists’ brutal rule.

The US just sent nearly 1M bombs and missiles to Guam — here's why

Hint: There's this guy a few thousand miles away who's threatening to lob a nuke in their direction.

This is what the 400 US troops in Somalia are actually up to

The US has quadrupled its military presence in Somalia after Al-Shabab killed nearly 300 civilians in two truck bombings. Half of them are special ops troops.

The war between the US Army and Magpul is heating up over ice

Magpul officials are calling foul on the Army's claim that its rifle magazines don't work in the cold — and they say they can prove it.