|Tom O'Horgan will direct a staged reading of
WORLD WAR NOW OR HOW SEYMOUR GOT HIS GUN OFF an antiwar play by Mark Eisenstein,
on November 10 and 11 in La MaMa's Annex Theater, as a celebration of the
40th Anniversary of his artistic association with Ellen Stewart and La MaMa
Experimental Theater Club. The cast of ten will feature Ed Asner and Estelle
"World War Now…," a piercing anti-war satire, is a kind
of "Six Characters in Search of an Author" meets "All Quiet
on the Western Front." The piece is a play-within-a-play depicting
a world where wars are run to uphold the arms business, but conflicts
are limited to World War I armaments, since that was the last "civilized"
war. A mother searches the battlefields for her son Seymour, who ran away
to enlist, only to find that the dead soldiers, including her lad, are
ghoulishly scavenging the battlefield for body parts to replace the ones
they've lost. This frightening development threatens to end war forever,
which scares the pants off Governments worldwide. Throughout the piece,
most of the main characters talk back to their creator, a novice playwright
named Mickey, and willfully re-invent themselves in a Pirandellian fashion.
The piece was written in 2002, and is inevitably informed by the consciousness
of the current Middle Eastern war. It opens with Mickey welcoming his
audience to a stage reading of his new play set in a time of a never ending
war which serves as both a context and a pretext to a satire denouncing
the powerful networks, whose interests seem to lie in everlasting wars.
After Seymour is killed and turned into a ghoul, the performers put the
author of the play on trial, accusing him of being the ultimate ghoul
because of the characters he created. The trial turns the play into a
debate revolving around the meanings of drama, playwrighting and acting,
including the audience in the reflection.
It's not the first time Mark Eisenstein hasdealt with the theme of war.
In his film "God Is On Their Side," a full-length feature, Buster
Poindexter played God in a story about a time of war when a great prayer
offensive is launched to win God over to "our" side. Eisenstein
taught Creative Writing at Hofstra University (in the '60s) and Film Production
at Jersey City State College (until 1995), where he established a Film
Production Unit. He wrote various plays including "The Fighter,"
a three act play anthologized by John Gassner in "Four Yale Playwrights,"
(Crown Press 1967); "Out of the Garden," a two act play produced
at Hearst Theatre at USC in 1982 and at Love Creek Theatre, NYC, in 1999;
and "The Electric Chair," a full-length play produced by The
Marin Players, Marin County, CA and The Actors Theatre, NYC, in 1986.
In 1993, his lyric documentary, "The Island," won the top prize
at Black Maria Film Festival at The Thomas Edison Museum in Orange, New
Tom O'Horgan was director of the first La MaMa Repertory Troupe in the
'60s. "At the beginning, we couldn't get arrested in New York,"
remembers O'Horgan, "so we had to go to Europe." O'Horgan and
Ellen Stewart took the La MaMa troupe on a tour with Rochelle Owens' "Futz"
in repertory with Paul Foster's "Tom Paine," Leonard Melfi's
"Times Square" and a double bill of Sam Shepard's "Chicago"
and "Melodrama Play." The rest, as they say, is history. The
world was struck with the aesthetic newness of the troupe. O'Horgan's
influence on contemporary directing is now legendary. His memorable productions
include the La MaMa production of "The Architect and the Emperor
of Assyria," Broadway's "Hair," "Jesus Christ Superstar"
and "Lenny," Bernstein's "Mass" at the Kennedy Center,
and Stravinsky's "Soldier's Tale" at Carnegie Hall. He has directed
new plays and musicals frequently at La MaMa throughout the years.
Ed Asner plays the American General and Estelle Parsons plays Seymour's
mother, The other actors are Nick Taylor, Peter Linari, Richard Cook,
Charles Balcer, Paul Berman, Ron Lier, Richard Hirschfeld, Katrina Oost
and Brian Dusseau. Project manager is Mack Gilbert.