Dirty War

I wanted to write something about the fact that we started rehearsal this week and it’s going very well and it’s always a joy to see the characters you’ve written alive and breathing before you. And all that’s true and it’s great as well. And I don’t want to get my high horse atop a soap box but I sat down to write this entry and, of course, before I do anything else at the computer I check my email and there’s an email in there from my director, Niegel Smith, and it’s just a headline and a link from the Times: 

“Chechen Rights Campaigner Is Killed” (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/16/world/europe/16chechnya.html)

So now this is what I’m writing about, because it’s the thing my play deals with. You haven’t seen it yet so I’ll fill you in. Terroristrevolves around the 2002 Moscow Theatre Hostage Crisis. In case you don’t remember, this was the seizing of a Moscow theater and everyone inside by about 40 Chechen guerillas, half of whom were women with bomb belts strapped to them. They were demanding the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya or they would blow up the theater and everyone inside it. I started off writing a play that was basically a dramatization of the theater crisis; but as I continued to find my way into it, the thing I became obsessed with was Chechnya and what was going on there and the people caught up in the struggle. I followed it in the news whenever stories would crop up, I started reading the writings of Anna Politkovskaya–one of the few journalists who was actually reporting on what was going on in Chechnya and who was assassinated in 2006 for pissing off the wrong people one too many times. The more I tried to turn all this into the play the more I lost hope about my being able to do so. And the more I thought about it the more stupid I found the whole endeavor. “If you really want to make something happen,” I’d tell myself, “You should actually get out there and start working as an activist.”

Well, I didn’t do that either. I found a way to write the play. I ended up taking a cue from Anna P. who focused her stories not so much on the politics behind what was happening in Chechnya but on the personal stories of the people whose lives were caught up in the conflict. The result is a play I’m pretty happy with. I don’t know if it has the ability to “make a difference.” My best hope is that it gets people interested in Chechnya and asking questions both about what’s going on there and why no one is really doing anything about it. So it’s this constant back and forth for me. Being in the play, and being in the real world, back to the play, but don’t forget what’s actually going on. 

Anyhow, I thought I’d share some of my research, a documentary made by BBC4 that does a great job of explaining what’s been going on in Chechnya: http://www.moviesfoundonline.com/chechnya_the_dirty_war.php

We open in 2 weeks. Fingers crossed.

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SPF Begins…Sort of.

Which is to say that SPF absolutely did begin this past Tuesday, July 7. But I haven’t been around. I’ve been on the road from California. But we had our first readthrough last night and so it has sort of begun for me.

Anyhow, this is all prelude to saying that SPF has a playwrights blog that I’m part of and I’m going to post my entries here as well. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, July 8

But wait, it’s Friday July 9–no, make that the 10th. Or is it Saturday? I don’t really know. I just know I’m late getting my post to the blog. This however is not because I’m some sort of slacker or scatter-brain, it’s because I’ve just driven 3,156 miles to be sitting here at my desk in New York again. I was in California with my girlfriend. She’s a set designer and was working out there for the summer. I went to spend time with her and to bring us both back back east. Logistically it isn’t a hard thing to do: Pack car, get in, note rising of sun, head towards that. Cross mountains, desert, more mountains, plains, plains, plains, prairie and farmland, farmland, farmland, mountains again, more farmland, Jersey-ness, follow eyes and ears to big, noisy city, get across city, survive the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, park outside Astoria apartment, unpack, collapse. The catch was that my girlfriend’s last day was Friday, July 3, and I had to be back in the city Thursday, July 9 for the first readthrough of We Declare You a Terrorist. It’s a long way to go in such a short span of time, but it’s an amazing way to see the country. And it was pretty amazing to be eastbound on I-78 through New Jersey with the Manhattan skyline rising before me. It’s a sight I’ve seen many times, but knowing that behind me was a long very long journey from the San Francisco Bay made it special and new again. 

And what has this got to do with my play? Absolutely nothing. I could draw some sort of metaphoric parallel to the long journey it’s been seeing this play come to this point where I’m suddenly just over two weeks away from having it open at SPF. It’s true. It has been a long journey. But that’s pretty lame. Mostly I just wanted to write about the roadtrip because as a writer I’m fascinated by landscape and how people inhabit it. What I can say aboutTerrorist is that the readthrough last night went very well. It was my first time hearing this newest draft and getting to meet two of my actors and I’m very excited. I think we’ve got a fantastic cast, a fantastic design team, fantastic production team. We start rehearsals on Monday and I can’t wait.

But first I have to finish the roadtrip. Today I’m driving to Cape Cod.