Here’s an excerpt from Adam Szymkowicz’s excellent site interviewing contemporary playwrights; read the complete interview with Winter Miller here. And do click on the links recommended by our IN DARFUR playwright, now or for future reference.
Q: Your play In Darfur is coming up at Theater J in DC in April. Can you tell me about that play and how it came about? That was a two-headed challenge, right? Where has it been developed?
A: Yeah I’m super excited that we’re doing In Darfur in the nation’s capital. I’d like to get an Obama in. Maybe Malia or Sasha. Kidding. I mean the adult Obamas. I’m really hoping to coordinate with groups like Enough! and Genocide Intervention Network and potentially others to really try to draw in legislators to see this play. It’s one thing to read a news story or an op-ed about the suffering of people in Darfur and I think it’s another to know these people as human beings. But also, the play makes everyone accountable, reporters, aid workers and Darfuris, so I think it poses some compelling questions about sacrifice and betrayal and in whose name.
The play was a Two-Headed Challenge, which is a commission offered jointly by The Guthrie and The Playwrights Center in MN. My mentor, was my former boss at The New York Times, Op-Ed columnist Nick Kristof. And if I can just put some plugs in here for some completely amazing folks any writer should know: I will forever be indebted to the hugely awesome Polly Carl for the work she did with me on this script–she is truly a phenomenal dramaturg and she knows how to put a play first and everyone’s ego second. Another shout out to the director who was with me throughout the development of the piece, Joanna Settle, who is an extremely smart and specific director and with whom any writer, actor is designer is fortunate to collaborate with. But in addition some really great people got behind the play and were helpful in the development of it: Michael Dixon at the Guthrie, Mandy Hackett, Liz Frankel and Oskar Eustis at the Public and Marge Betley at Geva Hibernatus. The really great thing was that everyone involved recognized that this is a topical play and that it offers a way to spread awareness about something happening that if enough people were up in arms about and contacting their elected officials, we could force the UN /Security Council to stop the genocide immediately. So it was developed at those places above and then produced really quickly as a lab by the Public. All of that was in less than a year after the play was written. I was still writing the play while we were doing it at the Public which is why we closed it from reviewers. It was a beautiful production, I admire all the people involved. Then they did a very cool thing, they did a staged reading after the run at the Delacorte in Central Park, something they pretty much reserve for their productions of Shakespeare et al. Sitting al fresco with a bright night sky, the sound of planes occasionally buzzing above, that incredible cast and crew and 1800 people in the audience I’ll take to the grave. And after the play, my heroes in the anti-genocide movement, people like Samantha Power, Kristof, John Prendergast, Mia Farrow, Omer Israel and Mark Hanis all spoke about Darfur.
Darfur is in really bad shape. It’s not written about that much because it’s sort of assumed the public is weary of hearing about it, but it’s just gotten worse and worse there as aid workers are prevented from helping by president bashir and virtually all programs related to gender based violence are banned–so there are all these rapes in the camps that go unreported and that leave women without care for very violent situations. My friend Bec Hamilton who is an excellent writer and investigator just wrote a great article about it in the New Republic. You can find it here.
If you are reading this and interested in Darfur, check out Enough! and Genocide Intervention Network for how to get involved.