ANTIWAR PLAY INVITES YOU TO 'TALK BACK' ABOUT THE WAR
by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor.
[October 1, 2005]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] The artists behind What I Heard About Iraq,
the new antiwar play at Los Angeles's Fountain Theater, don't like what
they've heard about the war -- but they want to know what YOU think!
That's why every performance
ends with audience members invited to "talk back" to the cast and director
as they sit on stage and listen to YOUR opinions!
Playwright and director Simon
Levy based his play on Eliot Weinberger's article, "What I Heard About
Iraq," which appears in What
Happened Here: Bush Chronicles. Levy's minimalist play is told
entirely through actual quotes originally spoken by the war's architects
and participants over the past several years, everyone from George Bush,
Dick Cheney, Condaleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and Donald Rumsfeld, through
to the actual soldiers, reporters, and Iraqis on the ground.
"I'd been searching for an
antiwar play for the last 18 months as a response to the Iraq war, and
how deeply I feel it is not only illegal but immoral and deeply damaging
to everything America should stand for," said Levy to the Hollywood Investigator. "Nothing I read felt immediate, now!
"Then a friend sent me Eliot's
article, which I avoided reading for about 2 months because it was 23 pages
long! He urged me again to read it, which I did one night, and there
it was, the cry I'd been searching for.
"Not only did the article
encapsulate the entire debacle, it was poetic and truthful. The first
I wrote on a notepad was 'A Cry for 5 Voices.' Why? No idea. But from that nub of an idea, I began to 'see' the article come to life
on stage. I pursued the rights, got them, then gathered a team of
creative partners and rushed it into rehearsal so we could open on September
The cast features Marc Casabani, Darcy
Halsey, Tony Pasqualini, Bernadette Speakes, and Ryun Yu. Brad
Schreiber is Creative Media Consultant for the play, which features
an audiovisual backdrop of wartime news footage, video wargames, and even
a music video.
"Brad is a longtime friend,"
said Levy, "a walking encyclopedia of many forms of media, an ardent activist
for peace and humanity, and an important creative partner in the project
who spent countless hours researching video and still images, plus music,
and was deeply involved in the creative aspects and choices of the multimedia
used in the show."
Following every performance,
audience members are invited to "talk back" to the director and cast, and
express their views (and frustrations and perplexities) over the war. Sharing the stage on most nights are guest speakers from across the antiwar
movement. Guests have included Marcy Winograd, Blase Bonpane, Daniel
Tamm, and this reporter (who represented the California
"There are times in our history
when it's important that theater serve a community & public function,"
Levy. "The primary purpose of the Talkbacks is to allow the audience
a public forum to express their feelings about all the issues
deals with. I'm much more interested in hearing the audience's viewpoints
than to espouse my own.
"Guest speakers in the forefront
of the antiwar/peace movements in the area offer the audience points of
view they may not get through normal media channels. More importantly,
they remind the audience that one person does matter, one person can affect change. It's important they feel empowered, especially beneath
the weight of something as daunting as this war and the many policies of
Because he believes the antiwar
movement has broad nonpartisan support, Levy seeks guests from across the
political and religious spectrum. He's found it easy to attract progressives
in L.A., so he's especially interested in attracting conservative and Christian
antiwar spokespersons. He believes the opposition to the Iraq War
is where the opposition to the Vietnam War was in 1965; he predicts that
in five years the antiwar movement will be the mainstream majority, as
was the case in 1970.
The response to his play
has been "phenomenal," said Levy. "Many people are emotionally affected
-- from shame to sadness to anger to outrage to feeling helpless to wanting
to change the world. It's not just rhetoric.
"One young woman, after
seeing the show and feeling she was not involved in society in any meaningful
way, decided to volunteer for two weeks in New Orleans after Hurricane
"Another woman said she simply
shut down during the show because it was 'too much,' but as she continued
speaking she broke down sobbing, releasing all the feelings she tried to
prevent herself from feeling.
"A teen from Atlanta who
grew up in a 'Bush household' said, 'After seeing this show, I'm not sure
how I'm going to talk with my mom.'
"A young Iraq war vet told
us, 'If you showed the real truth on stage, no one in America would be
able to take it.'
"The power of theater is
to take that which is intellectual or rhetorical and make it emotional. If you can make a subject emotional to an audience member, they will respond
and act in the world around the subject in a different way. They
have to because they've been touched.
"What I hope to accomplish
is simple: to wake people up, to wake them up more, to reawaken the ones
who have developed narcolepsy."
Copyright © 2005
info see the Fountain
Theater's website. To contact Simon Levy, visit his
Due to the play's critical and popular success, its run has been extended
thru December 15th (Thursday nights only), in repertory with ACTS OF DESIRE
(two one-acts about modern Muslim women).