Thursday, June 09, 2011

re:union | sean devine's washington dc research road trip 1

Here is a first in a series of blog posts on the research and background for the RE:UNION. The posts are written by playwright and co-artistic director of Horseshoes & Handgrenades Theatre, Sean Devine, and can be seen in their original context here.

As Horseshoes & Hand Grenades and Pacific Theatre continue our development and pre-production work on our upcoming Fall 2011 project, Re:Union, we’re going to be blogging throughout our creation process.

For our first entry, playwright (and HHG co-artistic director) Sean Devine and production video projection designer Jason H. Thompson (based out of Los Angeles) are down in Washington DC on a research trip. Sean sent in this blog:

We’ve come to DC to collect archival records that we plan to incorporate into both the production design of Re:Union as well as any exhibits that might be a part of our outreach events for Vancouver: The Activist City. Understandably there’s a wealth of information to be had here, what with the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and just everything you can see driving around the city. We’re doing a considerable amount of video shoots to help capture the scope and architectural grandeur of Washington DC. It helps in trying to imagine just how small Norman Morrison must have felt as he drove himself past these empire-sized monuments on the way to the Pentagon to offer up his one little life in the cause of peace.

All in all, this trip is an incredible opportunity in the ongoing script development process, as we’re now able to incorporate so much more realism and detail into the project. Much thanks to Arts Partners in Creative Development for making it possible.

Most of our first day has been spent at the National Archives in nearby Maryland, which boasts the largest collection of government records in the country. The security requirements of getting in and out of the building are several times more exacting than even the most nervous of airports. Not only are you physically screened, but every single piece of equipment and paper that you bring in and out of the building is carefully monitored. And no pens allowed! White gloves and pencils only.

But you quickly realize why they’re so strict. The size, diversity, and impossible-to-estimate value of this collection is unmatchable. It might even help to justify the large number of armed employees.

Jason Thompson and I are focusing our research on video and photographic records from the mid-1960s, in the era of Norman Morrison’s death. As we know, this was a period of escalating militarism as well as activist protests.

In October 1967, a massive sit-in action was held on the grounds of the Pentagon. This protest was one of the larger events in the years-long wave of anti-war activism that Norman Morrison’s death helped to ignite. We’ve sent you a couple of the many photos that we found to help imagine what it might have been like.

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