Monday, September 12, 2022

State of Siege (2003)

Drew Narten, Mindy Childress
(Bad Epitaph Theater Co., 2003)
Photo: Anthony Gray
Sunday night, I noticed I had a tickle in my throat. By bedtime, I was coughing. I decided to wait until morning to self-test, and all night I was achy and woke countless times. I obsessed about taking the test, and what the result would be. At six I took the test, which turned immediately positive. I have Covid.

By the middle of Monday morning I was weak and achy. I tried to sleep in, but was obsessing about my job, about the residency, the lesson plans I needed to teach – and how many actor-teachers may also have Covid. As the morning progressed, the news was largely positive, in that they were not positive.

I never imagined I was invulnerable, I never thought I was immune, I thought I might be immune, because who knows? In those apocalyptic plague stories there’s always a small percentage that never contracts the disease.

In 2003, Bad Epitaph emerged from hiatus with a production of Albert Camus’ State of Siege (1948) which he had adapted from his own novel, The Plague.

The play is a fable about a bad omen in the form of a comet over Cadiz, Spain, and how the people’s collective fear paves the way for a man named The Plague to assume the reins of power. It is the apocryphal quote from Ben Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” made manifest.

Drew Narten, Nick Koesters, Christine Castro
(Bad Epitaph Theater Co., 2003)
Photo: Tim Safranek
Bad Epitaph Producing Director Tom Cullinan chose to produce this piece because (1) he had long wanted to and (2) it was a response to the Patriot Act, when Americans openly encouraged the government to strip away at our civil liberties in the “war against terrorism.”

“Cullinan imbues the production with sinewy style and imaginative staging,” said Cleveland Scene theater critic Christine Howey. “All the actors wear half-masks, in commedia dell’arte style, which gives this parable a heightened sense of symbolism.”

Traditionally, anti-fascist plays such as this one are resolved when the people come together as one, eschew their fear, and cast out the authoritarian. Unfortunately, if this was ever something that happened in the United States, it does no longer.

For twenty-one years we have lived in a perpetual state of crisis, and the authoritarians are still winning, through division and fear, which has never been so evident as during the current pandemic.

Because we are still in a  pandemic. If you have any doubt, come on over and I will breathe on you. 

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