University Players Present Ajax in Iraq October 5 – 13

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University Players present Ajax in IraqUniversity Players present Ajax in Iraq by Ellen McLaughlin, October 5th through October 13th on the campus of California State University Long Beach. Directed by John Farmanesh-Bocca, Ajax in Iraq seeks to make sense of the horrors of war by fusing the stories of Ajax, Sophocles’ tragic military hero, and AJ, a female American soldier in contemporary Iraq.

McLauglin weaves a tapestry of short, explosive scenes that jump between the complementary plots of AJ and Ajax.  In the mythical storyline, Ajax rages against his superiors after learning he will not inherit the armor of the slain warrior-hero Achilles.  Thousands of years later in the modern War in Iraq, AJ grapples with formidable adversaries—both enemy combatants and members of the very military unit which is supposed to protect her.  The betrayals, brutalities, and hidden dangers of life on the front lines drive both heroes to commit unthinkable atrocities against the innocent and reap deadly consequences.  A chorus of modern and ancient soldiers punctuate the dual plots with devastating insights about the lasting effects of war.

Director John Farmanesh-Bocca calls the play “three-dimensional chess,” as it shifts back and forth in time and place.  He explains that the intertwining stories illustrate that, “the horrors and brutality of war are ancient. They’re not just now, they’re always. That’s the power of mythology, the Greeks, the ancient writing.”  Rather than experiencing  “distance between the piece if you see classical or mythological characters in it,” the director claims, “It actually should draw you closer to it, because there’s going to be something about it that feels true, there’s gonna be something about it that feels timeless.”

John Farmanesh-Bocca’s previous work for University Players includes Gentlemen Redux, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona set to the music of U2.  John Farmanesh-Bocca is the Founding Artistic Director of both Not Man Apart – Physical Theatre Ensemble and Shakespeare Santa Monica.  Award winning directing credits include Wish I Had A Sylvia Plath (Edinburgh Fringe – Fringe First Award), Pericles Redux (The Kirk Douglas Theatre), Titus Redux (LA Radar Fest), and AS/IS (New American Theatre). Other local directing credits include Hercules Furens for The Getty Villa Theatre Lab.  John will return to the Getty Villa Theatre Lab in 2013 to direct Academy Award Winner Olympia Dukakis in a radical adaptation of Lysistrata. New York directing credits include: Woyzeck, Closer, and Fortinbras (Juilliard/Lincoln Center). He trained at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts before serving as Directing Fellow at The Juilliard School’s Drama Division (2003-2005). He now serves as guest faculty at NYU – TSOA’s Classical Studio, UCLA Drama & LSU Drama.

Ajax in Iraq opens Friday, October 5th, and runs for 9 performances, closing on Saturday, October 13th.  Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm with Saturday matinees at 2 pm. This production is in the Studio Theatre on the CSULB South Campus, accessible via West Campus Drive. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors and students (with valid ID). For tickets and information, please call (562) 985-5526 or visit

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