ANOTHER LIFE at Theater for the New City Reacts to Guantanamo Bay Hunger Strike
As events unfold in the forcible repression of the hunger strike by 88 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, we are entering the final week of "Another Life," written and directed by Karen Malpede, presented by Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. The play protests the Bush era torture program and the indefinite detentions of our post-9/11 world. Its cast and company, shocked by news from Gitmo, will host post-play discussions during the play's final week as community forums for playgoers to exchange thoughts and concerns on the events.
Last week, prisoners and guards have clashed at the American military base in Cuba as authorities moved inmates, many of whom are on hunger strike, out of communal cellblocks. Many news stories have emerged about forced feedings of the prisoners. Almost 100 detainees have been cleared for release but remain at Gitmo because of Congressional restrictions and supposed concerns of possible mistreatment when they are sent back to their home countries. Lawyers for some of the detainees have condemned the camp authorities' actions. One poignant sufferer's first-person account appears in the New York Times of April 14, which had been told by a prisoner through an Arabic interpreter to his lawyers at the legal charity, Reprieve, in an unclassified telephone call.
"Another Life" has received high praise from prominent figures who appeared in post-play discussions during the play's first two weeks. Michael Ratner, lawyer for Julian Assange and President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, "I was captivated from beginning to end. The play was painful to watch, but beautiful and so important." ElizaBeth Holtzman, former Congresswomen and author of Cheating Justice, said "I really like this play." Victoria Brittain, journalist and author of the only other play about the torture program, "Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom," wrote, "This is such a beautiful and important play, with a great company." Thomas Drake, the NSA whistleblower, wrote, "Another Life" is a powerfully compelling play revealing the projected psycho-sexual pathology of our national security state mindset - and the sickness at the center of our collective political madness using torture as the means to justify the ends of fear and endless war." Jesselyn Radack, National Security and Human Rights Director of Government Accountability Project, said "Another Life should be required viewing for all Americans."
The play, written and directed by Karen Malpede, stars George Bartenieff. This husband and wife team are co-founders of Theater Three Collaborative. The play features a cast of six. After its brief New York run, "Another Life" will travel to London, where it will be featured in the Second Annual Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts New Works Festival in early July. Bartenieff says, "We're looking toward a European production. There is interest in Norway as well as in England."
The little theater company opted to forgo New York critics, regarding the play as too important to be misunderstood, and is relying completely upon word-of mouth. "The audience of activists, artists, lawyers, writers and students loves this play. We have had the most amazing responses," says Bartenieff. "Audience members are tweeting and blogging for us; they are eager to help spread the word."
The play has also been embraced by Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), Judith Malina, Penny Arcade, Joan MacIntosh, Marvin Carlson, Cindy Rosenthal, Kathleen Chalfant, Charlotte Phillips (founder of Brooklyn for Peace), major writers and thinkers about the history of torture, and many other lawyers who have risked their careers to bring some small hope to detainees.
Reflecting on this week's news, Karen Malpede says, "The men incarcerated in Guantanamo are desperate. They have no hope unless the American people wake up and come to understand the needless suffering that is being inflicted in our name. If we are nation founded on laws, we must release the innocent and try those who have legitimate reason to be tried. Indefinite detention is torture."
"Another Life" opened March 28 at Theater for the New City and plays through April 21. Peformances are Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 PM and Sunday at 3:00 PM. Theater for the New City is located at 155 First Ave., at East Tenth Street. Tickets are $18 and can be ordered online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net.
Complete info: http://www.jsnyc.com/season/another_life.htm.
Pictured: George Bartenieff plays an out-sized captain of industry who privatizes and is ultimately undone by state-sponsored torture in "Another Life," written and directed by Karen Malpede, a surreal play that is based on real post-9/11 events. Tess (Christen Clifford, L), his rebellious artist-wife, has been incarcerated in the SoHo loft of Handel (George Bartenieff, C). Handel's slave, Egyptian cab driver Abdul (Abbas Noori Abbood, R), stands by. Handel has just "died" only to rise again. Photo by Beatriz Schiller.