This morning, WOSU Public Radio featured playwright David Ian Lee, director Matt Slaybaugh, and cast member Jordan Fehr on All Sides with Ann Fisher. Ann spoke with David by phone before discussing our production of Sleeper and its creation with Jordan and Matt, live in the studio.
After thoroughly enjoying our opening of Sleeper last night, Arts writer Margaret Quamme applauded the show in writing. Here are some highlights.
Sleeper is a taut, emotionally demanding drama set in the years following 9/11. Available Light Theatre’s fluid, dynamic production of David Ian Lee’s play never lets its tension subside over the almost 2 1/2 hours of running time …
Lee has a gift for high-energy, jumpy, and often gleefully politically incorrect dialogue … At their most emotionally confused, the characters come across as intelligent, even if their brains aren’t getting them anywhere …
Director Matt Slaybaugh deftly locates the gap between the glib words and the less coherent feelings beneath them. Using a minimal but effective set, he keeps several scenes going simultaneously without losing the flow of any of them …
Eads and Weaver are particularly strong as the two lead women, finding depths and complexities in what could have been a simple dichotomy of liberal versus conservative …
Brant is quietly effective as a man increasingly in over his head. Welsh is touching both as Rachel’s husband and as Teri’s father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s …
Jordan Fehr is believably conflicted as a Muslim with ties to both London and his native Afghanistan …
The Available Light production grounds the more theatrical elements of the play in realistic character development, with the result that the smaller daily conflicts of the play come across as being as significant as the larger more world-shattering ones.
You can read her whole piece here.
The NY Times front page today features not one, but two stories about Afghanistan. One is a largely pictorial essay (view the slideshow) about the architectural evidence that remains from the Soviet Union’s influence in Kabul decades ago.
It’s the other, however, that is so strikingly concurrent with Sleeper, the play we’re about to open this Thursday. The headline reads, “Risks of Afghan War Shift From Soldiers to Contractors.”
In David Ian Lee’s Sleeper, one of the characters, Bobby Goffin, leaves his hospital consulting in the U.S. behind to take a job building roads in Afghanistan, a job he believes will be very safe.
A stand-out statement from the article – “More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war.” What follows is a pretty shocking list of statistics, including the fact that “at least 430 employees of American contractors were reported killed in Afghanistan” and “according to the Labor Department’s statistics, 1,777 American contractors in Afghanistan were injured or wounded seriously.” And we don’t even know the real numbers, because these private companies aren’t required to reveal all the details.
We’ve spent a lot of time reading about the history of the Afghanistan-Pakistan chaos and studying the most current events and policies with respect to our recent actions in the region. Even so, it’s hard not to view it with detachment, the events being so far away, and there being so many months since Afghanistan has been a nightly part of the news cycle. But there’s nothing like a front page headline to make it so much more visceral and immediate.
Read the NY Times stories online here:
Risks of Afghan War Shift From Soldiers to Contractors
In Afghanistan, a Soviet Past Lies in Ruins
See Sleeper starting February 16.
Theatre blogger (and actor/playwright) Zack Calhoun recently interviewed David Ian Lee on his Visible Soul blog. You should stop by there to read all of it, but here’s a highlight. (And there’s David with his son, Beckett, over to the left.)
How did you get started in theatre? What made you decide it was time to start writing plays?
When I was six years old, I visited New York, where my uncle was stage managing Cats at the Winter Garden; I remember sitting in the booth, touring the backstage area, and visiting the chorus girls’ dressing room… I grew up in Southern California, and started acting in community theatre and school plays, and at some point segued to semi-pro work and film and television. Assuming an actor’s lifestyle to be impractical – yet unable to imagine what I’d otherwise enjoy – I turned down several theatre scholarships and instead enrolled at a community college, only to later transfer to the University of Arizona’s Professional Actor Training Program. I thought I’d land back in L.A., yet when it came time to showcase I had leads in New York, and made the big move after an internship with the Milwaukee Rep in 2001.
Growing up, I wrote lots of short stories, and in junior high I made the local paper after I penned a novel. I briefly considered a career in journalism, but for one reason or another I stopped writing in my teens, and didn’t come back to it for almost a decade. Then, in 2007, after living abroad for many months, I returned to the U.S. to find acting work even harder to come by than it already had been; I couldn’t get arrested! Frustrated, I met in the spring with combat guru Rick Sordelet – a friend and mentor – who suggested I write my own material. At the same time, I found myself increasingly aggravated with what I viewed as our country’s astounding sense of apathy, misapplied rage, and willful ignorance post-9/11. After meeting with Rick, I booked a venue, then went home and began work on The Latchkey Pool, which was staged a month later. I then collaborated with a friend who had worked on the 19th floor of WTC 2, and we put up our play Liberty & Joe DiMaggio that September. In the five years since, I’ve just kept on plunkin’; in his very kind preface to the anthologized version of my play Sleeper, Mac Rogers described this phenomenon as the “unbottling” of stories I’d not told for so long.
PLEASE NOTE: In the interview, David mentions visiting Columbus in August, but we have since moved the show to February.