Playwright’s ‘White Hot Fury’ Becomes a Response to Trump
Robert Schenkkan’s ‘ Building the Wall’ will debut in March.
mentalist, opposed to mass tourism projects like hotel resorts.
“Manrique brought ideas that perhaps seemed crazy and elitist, since there was then not even running water around here,” said Marci Acuña, mayor of Haría, a village where Manrique had his final home and studio. “But we now have to thank him for preserving Lanzarote’s natural beauty.”
Mr. Taylor, 42, studied arts in London, but his underwater work has also drawn on his other skills. He worked as a diving instructor and underwater photographer, as well as a stage rigger, which, he said, taught him how to anchor statues on a seabed.
As a teenager, he sprayed graffiti on subway cars, which would then be wiped clean the next day.
Urban graffiti is “a lot of labor that can then be gone forever,” he said, just like statues once they lie at the bottom of the ocean. “You learn the idea of change, lack of control and not being precious about your work.”
Mr. Taylor has completed similar projects on the other side of the Atlantic. In 2010, he opened an underwater museum off Cancún, Mexico, where, he said, the warmer water and larger natural reef are allowing more marine life to develop than in Lanzarote. Ben Hutchinson, a British diving instructor who moved to Lanzarote nine years ago, said he had received several requests from people wanting to dive the underwater museum. But he offered a note of caution, saying it remained to be seen whether the museum could reach both its tourism and conservation goals.
“I’m here because of tourism, as is almost everyone else working in Lanzarote,” he said, “but there is also no point pretending that attracting more people doesn’t normally disturb sea life.” The playwright Robert Schenkkan spent three years writing his Pulitzer-prize-winning series “The Kentucky Cycle,” and 21 months on a first draft of “All the Way,” which won a Tony Award.
“Building the Wall,” a disquieting response to the dawn of the Trump era, took him just one week to complete. He wrote it, he said, in a “white-hot fury.”
Five theaters around the United States, acting with unusual speed, have agreed to present the play, shaping an early response to a presidency that has alarmed many.
“We no longer live in a world that is business as usual — Trump has made that very clear — and if theater is going to remain relevant, we must become faster to respond,” Mr. Schenkkan said. “We cannot hope to be useful if we can’t respond until 18 months after the fact.”
In the play, set in 2019, a writer interviews a prison executive awaiting sentencing for his role in a Trump administration effort to deport large numbers of immigrants after a terrorist attack in America. “It’s very solidly grounded in current American law, and Trump’s rhetoric,” he said.
Mr. Schenkkan wrote “Building the Wall” the week before the 2016 presidential election. The Fountain Theater in Los Angeles will be the first to stage the play, in March. “We had our season in place, with another production planned, but as soon as I read this script, I knew we had to move fast,” said Stephen Sachs, an artistic director of the theater.
The theaters presenting the play say they believe drama can help shape public understanding and conversation, in this case about administration policies they find troubling.
“History will judge us by how we responded to this crisis, and we can’t waste any time,” said Michael Dove, producing artistic director of the Forum Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland. “We can’t choose silence.”
Playwrights have long used their work to express political concerns in real time. “The Crucible,” Arthur Miller’s 1953 response to right-wing Mccarthyism, is an example. More recently, “Stuff Happens,” a play by David Hare about the buildup to the 2003 Iraq War, reached the London stage in 2004; and “Privacy,” James Graham’s response to the 2013 Edward J. Snowden revelations, reached the London stage in 2014.
Ari Edelson, artistic director of the Exchange, which supported the development of Mr. Schenkkan’s play, said, “I think a lot of theater artists have been very shaken, and also awoken, by the events in November, and are asking, ‘Am I creating work that’s addressing the questions we all should be asking each other?’ and ‘Am I communicating with as many of my fellow Americans as I can?’ ”