A BLANKET OF DUST to Premiere at Flea Theater Mainstage
"A Blanket of Dust" is the story of Diana Crane, a modern day Antigone. The daughter of a high-ranking US Senator, she seeks justice for her husband, who has died in the World Trade Center. Her subsequent ordeal drives her to the outer fringes of society. Struggling with facts that the government, the media, her family and her countrymen deny, she finally confronts them all with a harrowing act of sacrificial tragedy. The play's world premiere will be presented by Delphi Film from June 6 to 30 at The Flea Theater Mainstage, 20 Thomas Street, directed by Christopher Murrah.
"A Blanket of Dust" is a political thriller, with its rapid pacing, its sense of impending crisis and the central role of conflict in its mythic plot. As Diane descends, Antigone-like, toward her inevitable death, characters engage in profound debates on true and false conspiracies, the impotence of political opposition in our democracy, and the responsibilities of journalists to the truth.
After she loses her husband in the World Trade Center, Diana Crane embarks on a tragic journey from personal skeptic to political martyr, at the end of which she falls in love with Andrew Black, a radical bookstore owner and the son of a former director of the CIA. Together they charge that 9/11 was cynically manipulated by right wing warmongers to launch imperial travesties in the Muslim world. In doing so, they become objects of vicious suppression by the US government.
In Diana's and Andrew's fathers--one a Democratic Senator, the other a former CIA Director--we see two faces of the establishment: liberal and conservative. In their "practicality," we see the unmistakable mask of fascism: the assertion that greed, vengeance and gratuitous cruelty are legitimate motivations for political behavior when there are difficult choices to be made. Diana is uncompromising in her morality and reflects the unbending spirit of those who refuse to deny their moral core. Like Antigone, she is meant to inspire the unyielding commitment that must be summoned against autocracy. Author Richard Squires acknowledges the influence of the Antigone myth on all modern writers, but views Diana's character as more complex. He says, "Diana cannot deny her own experience, her visceral encounter with an epochal event. When she sees the collapse of 7 World Trade Center, she believes her own eyes and trusts her own understanding. She is opposed in this by family, friends and acquaintances without such primary experience, who deny the reality she has witnessed. This constitutes the central conflict of the play."
Diana is played by Angela Pierce, who shared an Obie Award last year with the ensemble of "Oslo" (directed by Bartlett Sher). She is a Boston Film Festival Best Actress Winner for "Delinquent" and a Best Actress nominee by the Connecticut Critics Circle, the Seattle Times and the Arizona Theatre Awards of Excellence. She played Goneril opposite Kevin Kline's Lear in "King Lear" at the Public, directed by James Lapine. She played the title role in the indie film comedy, "Mattie Fresno and the Holoflux Universe" (opposite Orson Bean) and appeared in HBO's "You Don't Know Jack," an Emmy award winning portrayal of Dr. Jack Kevorkian directed by Barry Levinson. Her voice is heard on "Grand Theft Auto V." She has guest starred on major network shows on ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS. She is an alumna and Board Member of The Acting Company and is a graduate of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School.
The cast also includes Brad Bellamy, Brennan Caldwell, Joseph Dellger, Jessica Frances Dukes, Alison Fraser, James Patrick Nelson, Anthony Newfield, Kelsey Rainwater, Peter J. Romano, Tommy Schrider and Peggy J. Scott.
The story was initially written by Richard Squires as a novel, then as a screenplay. The playscript was actually adapted from these two precursors. Squires says the parallels to the Sophoclean tragedy were a product of coincidence, not authorial intent. He reflects, "The veins of sacrifice in human civilization are so profound that modern authors can easily find themselves rewriting depth of of Greek tragedy without realizing they are doing so." Two lines that appeared organically in his script actually tipped him off: when Charlie, Diana's journalist brother, tells her "You know who you remind me of some times? Antigone," to which Diana replies, "I only wanted to bury my husband." It was only then that he recognized the parallel to the ancient Greek tragedy.
The production comes to New York in a time when, with authoritarianism growing the world over, plays of resistance feel urgent and immediate. In modern times, the Antigone myth has been used by dramatists to represent the struggle of the individual citizen against the authoritarian rule of the State. Two modern classics, direct adaptations of Sophocles' play, are the most familiar. Anouilh famously wrote his "Antigone" during the Nazi occupation of France. Brecht, building on Hölderlin's verse translation, set the play in Berlin in 1945.
Playwright Richard Squires is a dramatist, composer and film director. He was educated at Andover and Columbia, with further study in composition at Juilliard and in philosophy at St. John's College, Annapolis. In his early career, he worked as an actor, director, playwright, and technician for La MaMa Amsterdam, The Bread and Puppet Theatre, American Place Theatre, The Players Theatre of England, Brecht West Theatre and others. He has been a fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and Meet the Composer. He was co-creator of Soft Gallery, an environmental performance theater presented in Washington D.C. in 1974 and revived by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2007 and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2008. He founded the Museum of Temporary Art, an experimental gallery in Washington, DC, in 1975. Squires' first play, "Feathertop," was produced by the Brecht West Theatre in 1970. His second play, "The Judge," was presented at the Protetch-Rivkin Gallery in 1973 along with his first musical work, "The Second Play." In the 1980's he studied composition at Juilliard and held a scholar's desk at the Library of Congress while completing the Albion Cycle, which had a concert reading at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. in 1995.
He wrote, directed and scored the feature film "Crazy Like a Fox," starring Marry McDonnell and Roger Rees, a goodhearted comedy-drama about a man evicted from his family home and farm in Virginia who fights to win it back. It screened at a dozen film festivals internationally during 2004-05, winning prizes for best picture, director, cinematography and production. It was released in New York and Washington by Sky Island Film in 2006 and is currently distributed worldwide by Media Luna, Cologne. Squires' short films, "Pinkie" and "Kangaroo Court" (Best Picture, Barbary Coast Film Festival), have recently been completed and two new features, "Gurus and Gangsters" and "A Blanket of Dust," are in pre-production. He is also a novelist and essayist. (www.richard-squires.com)
Director Christopher Murrah specializes in theater, opera, multidisciplinary works and development of new works. This year, he formed Two Way Radio, a theatrical collaborative with choreographer Adam Fleming. They collaborated on "Toe Pick" at Dixon Place and a new production of "West Side Story" with the Sioux City Symphony in which a full orchestra shared the stage with a fully mounted production of the musical. In 2016, he joined the faculty of Yale School of Music's Opera Department, where he directs and teaches acting and movement. He is also on adjunct faculty at New York University. He received the Princess Grace Theater Award in 2014 and was previously honored by the Shubert Foundation through Columbia University.
In 2015, he helmed Verdi's "La Traviata" at the Mariinsky Opera House in St. Petersburg. At Yale Opera, he has been movement and fight director for include Britten's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Don Quichote" by Massenet. He has directed new works including "Peter Pan or the Boy Who Hated Mothers" by Michael Lluberes, "Alphabetical" byTingying Ma, "The Sounds of My People" by Tabia Lau and developed works by Matthew Minnicino, Daaimah Mubashshir and David Kimple. As an associate he has worked with Encores! Off-Center, Classic Stage Company, SITI Company and Kansas City Repertory Theatre. He is a menber of AEA and SDC and holds a master's in directing from Columbia. (www.christophermurrah.com)
Casting is by Stephanie Klapper of Stephanie Klapper Casting. General manager is Tom Smedes of Grandview Management. Brendan Boston is Scenic Designer. Andrew Murdock is Props Designer. Christopher Metzger is Costume Designer. Daisy Long is Lighting Designer. Jim Petty is Sound Designer. Don Cieslik is Projection Designer. Cheyenne Doczi is Production Manager. Elizabeth Ann Goodman is Production Stage Manager. Jessi Cotter is Stage Manager.