Play­wright’s ‘White Hot Fury’ Be­comes a Re­sponse to Trump

Robert Schenkkan’s ‘ Build­ing the Wall’ will debut in March.

Paper Boy - - Front Page - By MICHAEL PAULSON

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?’ ”

CHAD BATKA FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES Robert Schenkkan said his play is ‘‘solidly grounded’’ in Trump’s rhetoric.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.