Tuesday, March 10, 2015

the whipping man | interview with matthew lopez

Playwright Matthew Lopez has done some fascinating interviews about THE WHIPPING MAN.  Here's an excerpt from a piece of one he did with the New York Times before the play made its debut on Broadway.

Mr. Lopez came to New York in 2000 to try acting (“I was not very good”) and ended up focusing on writing, another love. After watching films like “Glory,” about a regiment of black troops during the Civil War, he said he became fascinated with the question of how a person could be a slave for most of his life and then suddenly be free. “Before and after, there is no clean break,” he said. “How do you make that psychological change?”

It’s not just a matter for the history books. “One of my characters says, ‘What do I do now?’ ” Mr. Lopez said. “I think that’s a really important question. You can compare it to any great calamity. That question was asked after the Rwandan genocide, I’m sure. It was asked after the Holocaust. That question was asked after 9/11.”

Parallels between Jews and African-Americans came to Mr. Lopez as he did research for his idea of a play set in the crucial month of April 1865, when the Civil War ended and Lincoln was assassinated. While reading scholarly books and the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, he stumbled upon a casual reference to the fact that in 1865 the Passover observance began the day after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

“It was this eureka moment,” Mr. Lopez said. “As these slaves were being freed in the American South, there was this ancient observance of the Exodus story.”

Read the full article here.

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