You can catch our play at C Cubed Main, just off the Royal Mile, starting August 2nd and running until August 27th. All performances begin at 3:10pm. If you're in the UK, I hope you will stop by and see us. A big thank you to C Venues, and to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
When our fundraiser reached the $1,000 mark, Thinkery & Verse had me pen a quick description of the project in its early stages. It seems appropriate to share that information here.
Those conversations, e-mails, and listening sessions led to the vibe of BRIDE OF THE GULF. The short play had more breathing room than I leave in some of my plays because I left space for music and movement. In theater-criticism and pop culture the term 'melodrama' has a negative connotation because most plays and films use music to control the audiences' emotions; music is often manipulative, and sometimes cloying. But in this case we needed music to open the door to more abstract forms of representation; the musicians, consciously or not, encouraged me to write 'impossible' stage directions.
Here's how the first version of the play began:
[Lights. Everyone on stage is newly dead, burnt crispy, bloody, or simply gone, and awkwardly posed, including HERO, a young woman. Hero opens her eyes.]
HERO: Saddam Hussein lasted 24 years. He hated Basra, the city I was born in. He used to say, "Basra is the bride of the gulf, but she's a peasant; peasant brides deserve three days of nice treatment, and then chase them to the fields." By the year 2016 it has been thirteen years since the invasion of Iraq removed Saddam Hussein from power.
[Hero sits up.]
Despite the violence of this period, we are not all dead.
[Everyone gets up and starts cleaning off the blood and filth.][A woman studies law. A man goes shopping. Two young people play draughts. A young man and young woman assemble a machine gun. Two young militiamen setup an 82mm mortar.]
In 1987, we had a population of perhaps 400,000. Now, despite all of the thirst, the starvation, the hate, and the death that has transpired in the intervening years...
[The two young militiamen launch a mortar round, which vanishes in an explosion.]
...we number more than one million people. It was not a magic trick. We just kept having sex and kept having babies....
In the piece above, Hero, a young woman, opens the play. She and her countrymen appear dead, which is how most Americans seem to think of the Middle East. I chose not to give her any other name because I wanted the actors to take her seriously as a protagonist--as a hero. She has desires, dreams, goals, and a point of view. In Hero's case, she wants to find her husband (a translator for the British Army) so that they can have a child together or, barring that, to kill him for trying to abandon her.
Hero is smart and knowledgeable. Like most of the characters in the play, she is a composite of people I knew in Iraq, some translators, some Iraqi government officials, and some people that we were pretty sure were trying to kill us. Others quietly wished that we were not there at all. But we all shared in the awful experience of Iraq as it teetered on the brink of civil war, and it was impossible not to admire the perseverance of my Iraqi friends, contacts, and acquaintances. In my time there, it became very apparent that the Americans and British were far less powerful and influential than we perceived ourselves to be.
In creating the short play alongside Fort Point Theatre Channel, director Kathryn Howell, and Karen Alvarado, we were not trying to rewrite the impending future, or change the world. We simply wanted actors and audiences to briefly join us for twenty minutes in imagining what the invasion of Iraq might have looked like from the other side.
In the longer, full-length version of the play--the play we are taking to Edinburgh--we go past that and we 'frame' the story-telling. That aspect of the play developed out of subsequent collaborations with English students in Basra, Iraq, and with conservatory artists from Rutgers University.