Sunday, February 11, 2007

British playwright Caryl Churchill’s acclaimed comedy of gender politics first appeared in the late 1970s, with its first American performance in the early 1980s. Since then it has become a classic, performed in regional and university theatres across America and in other parts of the world.

“I’d always been fascinated with this play,” director John Heckel says, “going back 25 years or so.” But would it be relevant to today?

“One of the first things I did was to look at the play to see if any of the material is dated, after almost 30 years. I discovered that none of it is—nothing that relates to the themes of gender identity, homosexuality, Lesbianism, how generations affect each other, colonialism."

While Act I in Churchill’s script and in the HSU production is set in late nineteenth century Africa, Heckel had to decide whether to keep the Act II timeframe of 1970s/80s London. He chose to change a few references to make it contemporary to today. “The only change I made in the script was to substitute Baghdad and Iraq for Belfast and Northern Ireland.”

He did this because the fundamental issues are still the same. “The arguments have gotten more complicated, but otherwise I thought the play really does a remarkable job addressing the issues of gender and sexuality of today.”

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