A reading of playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's new play "Strongman's Ghost", directed by Eric Simonson, ends our fabulous Friday Night (which also includes "The Gleaner" premiere and Red Carpet) on June 16, 2017.
We want to share with you some of Hatcher's thoughts on this play as well as the art of theatre.
Door Kinetic: What is the inspiration for "Strongman's Ghost's" plot?
Jeffrey Hatcher: It goes back to when Saddam Hussein was on the run. There were various stories that underlined the fact that the dictator was, among other things, a novelist and had written what were considered almost unreadable books.
Someone, I believe it was Christopher Hitchens, noted that it was a peculiar habit of dictators to fancy themselves literary figures and that more than a few of the 20th century's most notorious strongmen had tried their hand at fiction. It was rumored that some must have employed ghostwriters. And who could possibly refuse an entreaty from one's dictator? But once a writer has agreed to that kind of "employment," what happens to him?
Door Kinetic: Can you describe the main characters in a few sentences each?
Jeffrey Hatcher: The Writer is a not very successful literary instructor who works at a university in the play's unnamed capital. He's a passive sort, but like a lot of desperate scribblers, when given the chance his ambitions blossom and he jumps for it.
The General is the dictator, the strongman of the title. He is blunt, swaggering, insecure, brutal, but not without some limited charms and just enough sensitivity to allow one to feel at least momentarily sympathetic to him.
The Colonel is a survivor, a bureaucratic infighter, and although he's adept at navigating the treacherous waters of the Strongman's inner circle, his maneuvers are starting to become a bit too obvious.
The Guard is from a lower strata of society than any of the other characters. He has a peasant simplicity, but he harbors resentment as it transpires that he too has literary aspirations.
The Lieutenant and the Major (played by the same actor) are simply hard men, terse, dry, and cold blooded.
Door Kinetic: What do you hope Door Kinetic audiences take away from the staged reading at the festival?
Jeffrey Hatcher: Naturally I hope they will be entertained. I also hope they will come away with a somewhat nuanced view of the way literature, narrative, storytelling effect the ways in which we plot the narratives of our own lives, and that authoritarian/totalitarian/fascism/communism are all in one sense or another dreams from an unwritten novel.
Door Kinetic: In your opinion, what elements are absolutely necessary to create "a good" play?
Jeffrey Hatcher: A pressing question that affects the lives/happiness/survival of the main characters. Identifiable characters, which is not the same as likeable characters. Surprises. Humor. An awareness of death, even in extreme circumstances (example, see "The Odd Couple", Felix's attempt at suicide) and a satisfactory answer to the pressing question. That doesn't mean the answer has to deliver a happy ending, but the answer should be clear, allowing the curtain to fall. Dictated but not read.
Thanks Jeffrey! We're all eager to share "Strongman's Ghost" with our audiences!