American Political Plays after 9/11 is a diverse collection of bold, urgent, and provocative plays that respond to the highly charged, post 9/11 political landscape. Sparked by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and subsequently fueled by a series of controversial events—the Iraq war, the passing and enforcement of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, and the revelation of torture and other scandals at the Abu Ghraib prison—American political theater is currently experiencing a surge in activity. The plays in this collection include The Guys by Anne Nelson, At the Vanishing Point by Naomi Iizuka, The Venus de MiloIs Armed by Kia Corthron, Back of the Throat by Yusseff El Guindi, Three Nights in Prague by Allan Havis, and Question 27, Question 28 by Chay Yew.
The characters range from a New York City fire captain trying to respectfully memorialize eight of his lost comrades, to the citizens of a hog-killing Louisville neighborhood who poignantly exemplify the underside of the economic crisis, to an Arab American citizen being harshly (and possibly unfairly) interrogated by two officers as a “person of interest.” Though not all of the plays deal explicitly with the Al Qaeda attacks, they collectively reveal themes of sorrow and anxiety, moral indignation, alarmist self-preservation, and economic and social insecurity stemming from the United States’ fairly sudden shift from cold war superpower to vulnerable target.
The lively introduction by Allan Havis includes a brief history of political theater in the United States, an extensive discussion about how theater communities responded to 9/11, and an informative analysis of the six plays in the book. A collection of dramatic material framed by this significant historical event, AmericanPolitical Plays after 9/11 will be indispensable for theater and cultural studies scholars and students.
Richly deserving of wider exposure in the theater and the classroom, these sly, remarkable scripts touch on the forceful and salient issues of the 1990s, including the Gulf War, racial and sexual relations, crises unique to big cities, immigration and multiculturalism, art and censorship, revisionist history, academic freedom, and the transformation of the American presidency.
The American Play by Suzan-Lori Parks features an Abraham Lincoln impersonator trapped in an outrageous, Beckett-like world, while Naomi Wallace's In the Heart of America centers on a Palestinian American from Atlanta who is caught up in the Persian Gulf conflict. Kokoro by Velina Hasu Houston chillingly depicts the stark predicament of a Japanese mother caught between two impossible worlds; Marisol by José Rivera reveals the dark fairytale life of a young Latin woman in a wartorn, apocalyptic New York. The Gift by Allan Havis confronts overwhelming moral ambiguity in the farcical realm of university politics, while Nixon's Nixon by Russell Lees offers an adroit treatment of the fascinating, tortured Nixon/Kissinger relationship. The collection closes with Mac Wellman's 7 Blowjobs, a wicked send-up of the compromise politics that determined the fate of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Taken together, these seven plays present an eclectic web of social thought and imagination that are uniquely American, offering the reader a splendid, honest study of a rich society in search of itself.