Saturday, August 6, 2016

Private Manning Goes to Washington


Private Manning Goes to Washington

On Tuesday night. We welcomed back the Representatives. West-Park has enjoyed its relationships with this intimate theatre company and has been happy to host previous Representatives productions as concrete examples of what we see as the mission of the Center at West-Park, a center for the transformation of the individual and society.  Having previously been the venue for productions like Bazarov, Stan Richardson’s successful take on Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons to the nourish thriller pilot, Beddy Tear, this time we opened  our doors for Private  Manning Goes to Washington as an open preview on its way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  And a turn away capacity Mc Alpin Hall audience of church members, artists and neighbors turned out for the performance and conversation.
Stan Richardson, Pastor Brashear and Matt Steiner

Although Representatives’ productions always engage current social political reality, this may be their most existentially engaged production yet, especially in a year of a US presidential election that approaches magical realism. National security, wiki leaks, the rights of transgender persons, the specific case of Chelsea Manning who recently attempted suicide, all are present in this production. What we have is a reality based fantasy that tells Chelsea Manning’s story through the experience of hacker Aaron Swartz, an actual suicide victim.

We also see an exploration of the intersection of artistic creation and activism. The conceit is that Aaron Swartz and his (created) friend believe that writing a play about Chelsea Manning could raise a public cry to free her, just as Stan and his Representatives partner Matt Steiner believe(d) their work could do the  same.  At this point, we’re into one of those art/life/art infinite regression cycles. And damn well played, if I might say so. Stan’s writing always goes down satisfyingly easy like a well crafted artisanal brew, full bodied, flavorful.

Original rep Matt Seiner and company collaborator E. James Ford play their parts well, including a coda between Private Manning and the President. Yep, Obama himself in dramatic cameo…). The conversation that followed the performance touched on all the salient issues, nothing concluded,,but issues explored.
The conversation
What we wanted. Glad we could see the guys off to Edinburgh. May they do well there. And may we welcome  them home….and yes, FREE CHELSEA MANNING….

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