I wanted to write something about the fact that we started rehearsal this week and it’s going very well and it’s always a joy to see the characters you’ve written alive and breathing before you. And all that’s true and it’s great as well. And I don’t want to get my high horse atop a soap box but I sat down to write this entry and, of course, before I do anything else at the computer I check my email and there’s an email in there from my director, Niegel Smith, and it’s just a headline and a link from the Times:
“Chechen Rights Campaigner Is Killed” (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/16/world/europe/16chechnya.html)
So now this is what I’m writing about, because it’s the thing my play deals with. You haven’t seen it yet so I’ll fill you in. Terroristrevolves around the 2002 Moscow Theatre Hostage Crisis. In case you don’t remember, this was the seizing of a Moscow theater and everyone inside by about 40 Chechen guerillas, half of whom were women with bomb belts strapped to them. They were demanding the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya or they would blow up the theater and everyone inside it. I started off writing a play that was basically a dramatization of the theater crisis; but as I continued to find my way into it, the thing I became obsessed with was Chechnya and what was going on there and the people caught up in the struggle. I followed it in the news whenever stories would crop up, I started reading the writings of Anna Politkovskaya–one of the few journalists who was actually reporting on what was going on in Chechnya and who was assassinated in 2006 for pissing off the wrong people one too many times. The more I tried to turn all this into the play the more I lost hope about my being able to do so. And the more I thought about it the more stupid I found the whole endeavor. “If you really want to make something happen,” I’d tell myself, “You should actually get out there and start working as an activist.”
Well, I didn’t do that either. I found a way to write the play. I ended up taking a cue from Anna P. who focused her stories not so much on the politics behind what was happening in Chechnya but on the personal stories of the people whose lives were caught up in the conflict. The result is a play I’m pretty happy with. I don’t know if it has the ability to “make a difference.” My best hope is that it gets people interested in Chechnya and asking questions both about what’s going on there and why no one is really doing anything about it. So it’s this constant back and forth for me. Being in the play, and being in the real world, back to the play, but don’t forget what’s actually going on.
Anyhow, I thought I’d share some of my research, a documentary made by BBC4 that does a great job of explaining what’s been going on in Chechnya: http://www.moviesfoundonline.com/chechnya_the_dirty_war.php
We open in 2 weeks. Fingers crossed.