The Annex
November 10 & 11, 2003
Monday & Tuesday 7:30pm

Playwright: Mark Eisenstein
Director: Tom O’Horgan
Production Consultant: Mack Gilbert
Assistant Director: Suki Weston
Production Assistants: Joanne Feinberg, Perri Beth Irvings, Ann-Louise Lipman
featuring: Edward Asner*, Estelle Parsons*, Brian Backer*, Charles Balcer, Brian Dusseau, Joseph Del Giodice, Bobby Faust, Richard Hirschfeld, Peter Linari*, Katarina Oost, Nick Taylor*
project manager: Mack Gilbert
*courtesy of Actors Equity

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 Parsons.

"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 Jersey.

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.

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