Would you go to the theater to see a play about the Iraq War? And I do not mean hypothetically: I mean, if I told you that there is a show about the Iraq war opening this weekend, would you go? Oh, I guess that is still hypothetical. I guess I meant…I don’t know what I meant.
What I am trying to say is that I probably would not, for the same reason I didn’t have a glimmer of interest in seeing Stop-Loss (that recent movie with Ryan Phillippe): I don’t want to pay money to think more about what I think about when I read the New York Times or Slate.com or watch the news or when I listen to NPR or tune into these ridiculous debates or catch snippets from the Republican’s terrifying pep-rallies. I am all for learning about the world through entertainment, but I fear that all the entertainment of any show having to do with the war would be sucked out by the very fact of what it is.
The problem is I just read a really pretty good play about the Iraq War, and I’m starting to hate the rejection letter I am forming: I really like the play but I don’t think anyone will touch it right now. My regret is not so much professional as it is personal: professionally speaking, I am relieved that I could simply say (and truthfully so) that this is not the kind of theater my organization is interested in doing. But my personal confession is that this is not the kind of theater I want to see, despite all of the play’s many strong elements.
Maybe this will change. Maybe it is just too soon. Or maybe a play set in 2004 Iraq is already irrelevant and will not be relevant again until we can see it as a piece of the whole puzzle. Maybe it will come out in stride the next time we go to war, just like Vietnam plays are coming out now. Maybe we are only ready to learn about the mistakes of the last war when we are on to the next one.