I do not know when I became a political playwright. I suspect I always was. None of my characters escape the moment history has selected for them. I had written short plays about war, Revolutions/Revoluciones (NYC, LA, Panama City), a short version of A Work of Art (Chicago), and a short version of my proposed play (Denver, Boston, Sydney). I was sitting in an interview at a recording studio at the Australian Broadcasting Network when someone said, “We never thought an American would be critical of the bomb.” I realized the work could no longer remain a 10-minute play. I decided to work my way backward in time to the moment of the atomic bomb. I remained haunted by the firsthand account of a woman I met in Japan who had survived the bombing of Nagasaki. I caught a glimpse of her keloid scars when I was just 19.
While At Headlands
While at Headlands, I will go deep inside to write the final play of my trilogy, The U.S. at War, Sticks and Stones. The trilogy works backward in time: the war in Afghanistan (Graveyard of Empires), Vietnam (A Work of Art), World War II. The second play was inspired by the loss of my uncle, a Marine, in Vietnam. I said goodbye to him in Monterey before he was shipping out. I’m not able to express what that means in this moment—perhaps the plays do that. I grew up close to my grandfather, an Iwo Jima veteran who was so proud of having been a Marine, as he moved through the world in perfect English and perfect Spanish. Each play asks a question. Sticks and Stones asks what we ask countries (ourselves) to absorb when they (we) commit atrocities during war?