To: The Big Little Theatre, New York, NY
From: Jeffrey Stanley
Here are my thoughts for directing THE GOD OF HELL for your highly
acclaimed Sam Shepard Festival, to premiere in January, 2007. I'm
excited about it and I have a lot of palpable ideas running through my
mind about how to stage it. I know this farcical political comedy
premiered here in 2004 so it's fresh on people's minds.
can't merely be a rerun of that same production and it's very timely
political message. Shepard himself said at the time that he hoped
would affect people's decision in the voting booth, i.e., make them not
vote for Bush. Although it's only been two years since then the
can still be done again soon but only if it's given an extremely fresh
approach and an even bigger scope. There's SO much absurdist,
anti-Bush political comedy in New York theatre right now we can't just
beat a dead horse or no one will bother to come see it. A new
production of this play has got to hit like an atomic
It shouldn't just be about fascism creeping into American culture and
the erosion of freedoms for a white middle class couple in the
heartland. And the play can't just
about Bush or Iraq again like in 2004. Bush won't be in office
longer and the fascism isn't just impacting the US; our military
actions are impacting millions all over the world. We are in a truly
global village and that needs to be felt in the play. What I want
do is blow this thing out so it has a worldwide sense to
it, not just a sense that "we poor Americans are having our
Constitutional freedoms nibbled away through our own fear and we're not
doing anything about it."
That sounds like over-privileged whining if you're an impoverished
civilian someplace in the world
right now whose whole family just got wiped out by an errant US-made
bunker buster, or you're a kid working in a sweatshop in Asia.
Don't get me wrong, this play is hilarious and it needs
stay hilarious while also being taken to a more global level for a
sophisticated audience of New Yorkers who aren't presently caught up in
a presidential election panic.
Make Frank and Emma a dark-skinned Arabic or South Asian couple.
be a play on the very caucasian heartland's fear that anyone who isn't
white is either here stealing jobs from "real" Americans or they're
part of a terror cell. In our present culture of suspicion this
be darkly hilarious. Imagine a
couple (not necessarily Sikhs, just brainstorming here), her in a
sulwar kameez and a dainty apron, he in a turban and bib
overalls, complete with accents, calling themselves "Frank" and
"Emma" and insisting that they're a simple Wisconsin dairy farming
family. It'd be clear without
word that they're doing their best to assimilate and be "normal"
Americans and not call attention to themselves in the Heartland, and
it'd be smart,
wicked fun. I want to push this play in the global
direction it's already written in anyway.
Imagine the greater impact Welch now has when he wanders about
house saying that he doesn't see a single sign of patriotic memorabilia
and that it's leading him to question their loyalty to the country.
He'll be 50 times scarier now than he is already.
added weight the end of the play will have when they decide that Welch
is right, torture is good and fall in
line to march with him. It's no longer just about their fear
them side with Welch, it's also to prove to Welch that they're
terrorists so they don't get kidnapped (I mean "extraordinarily
rendered") and sent to Guantanamo. Welch already threatens to
administer torture (I mean "stress positions") to
Emma at one point but do we really believe
he'll do it? I say no - she's a white lady from Wisconsin, come
audience won't buy it either. But if he's threatening to torture
(I mean "aggressively interrogate") a
brown lady with a foreign accent it'll be one of the scariest moments
Also when Welch starts decorating their house with all the US flags it
feels too on-the-nose to me. It's preaching to the converted. A
sophisticated and mostly liberal New York audience is going to need to
be more stimulated
and challenged than to have American flags flying everywhere just for
irony's sake, it's too Hair, it's too All in the Family, it's too
MASH. My idea is to have plenty of American flags, sure.
should also be flags with corporate logos: Nike (conjuring up
of sweatshops and the global economy without saying a word), Walmart,
Coke, British Petroleum, De Beers Diamonds, Shell, CNN, FOX,
first they might appear to be multinational UN flags when Welch is
unfurling them and talking about people coming to the farmhouse for an
important meeting, but the audience will slowly realize the meeting
isn't for spies or generals or politicians, it must be for heads of
they're the people running the new worldwide fascism in lockstep
with our government.
I hope none of this sounds too intellectualized - this is a funny,
smart play and I'm extremely comfortable directing dark, absurdist
that I directed a short film this summer starring Sarita
You can view the trailer at http://www.brain-on-fire.com/lady
I also intend to enlarge the lighting and sound effects already
indicated in the script,
magnifying Haynes' "static shock" for greater visual and comic
effect. Ditto the glowing plants at the end. Also, Welch
have a small controller with which to electrically torture people, it
should be a car battery with jumper cables.
I also want to station a Secret Service agent dressed identically to
Welch outside the theatre preshow. This secret agent will keep an
eye on things, interact with the public as little as possible, but be
equipped with an electric joy buzzer to occassionally shake hands with
audience members as they enter the theatre: a foreshadowing of
Haynes' monstrous condition. This agent will also
come onstage later during the musical interlude to help Welch hang
additional US-corporate flag streamers creating a sickening web of
these flags all over the stage to the Fine Young Cannibals' version of
Thanks for your time and consideration.