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Q&A: Prof. King on “Drunk Enough to Say I Love You”

By Conor Amrien

Section: Arts

January 29, 2016

This week, The Brandeis Hoot sat down with Professor Thomas King (ENG) to talk about “Drunk Enough to Say I Love You,” the show that is coming to Brandeis next week. Performances will be held Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m., all in the Merrick Theater, Spingold Theater Center. Admission is free but seating is limited. RSVP at https://goo.gl/U5mYto to guarantee a seat.

Could you tell me a little bit about your production Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?

King: This is a play by Caryl Churchill…an important feminist, political theatre artist from England. She’s probably best known here in the United States for the plays Cloud 9, Top Girls, Serious Money, and a bunch of others. This is one of her more recent, very experimental plays. So, it’s even more experimental than most of her well-known feminist work. It’s a play that’s a strong critique of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the CIA during the history of the Cold War, the mid 20th century in the United States, and the legacy of the red scare in the U.S. and how it caused U.S. citizens to really identify with a certain image of American exceptionalism that required us to manage other sovereign states in order to ward off the threat of communism. It’s really a play about what we do as U.S. citizens when we identify with the idea of American exceptionalism and the notion that we have to protect America from foreign threats: the threat of communism, the threat of Islam, the threat of migration and immigration, of refugees crossing our borders to the extent that we identify with notions of not only American exceptionalism but also the pursuit of pleasure and the liberal democratic ideals of individualism. To what extent are we implicated in these foreign policies that serve to protect that pursuit of pleasure or those freedoms? Caryl Churchill sets this up in a really intriguing way because she investigates the way that we as U.S. citizens buy into this notion of the pursuit of pleasure and American exceptionalism by thinking about interpersonal relationships and sexual relationships, in this case between two men in a sexual relationship with each other. As the play looks at interpersonal violence within the relationship, it becomes a metaphor for thinking about mass violence, but on the other hand it gets us thinking about any identity group within the United States in order to get full access to citizenship has to buy into certain American ideals and we may become implicated in certain foreign politics that we wouldn’t normally uphold. It’s similar to the certain queer critique of pink-washing in Israel right now. She’s looking at how liberal policies can inadvertently align us with things we wouldn’t otherwise choose to endorse.

Why did you choose to bring this show to Brandeis?

King: The most immediate reason is that the company that produced the show is co-founded by a Brandeis alum. Her name is Anneke Reich. There are a number of other Brandeis people involved as well. Three more alumni are in the show: Tony Rios, Julia Davidovitz, Ernest Paulin. A current student Bronte Velez is featured as a movement and spoken-word artist and a visual artist as well. Another Brandeis alum designed the projections for the show and his name is Alex Weick. A lot of else felt like this would be a way to give back to the community as alumni or as a professor here. We’re adapting the script with permission from Caryl Churchill. The script is written for two white men and we are expanding the play by adding an ensemble of people of all different embodiments in order to address a couple of questions. One of which is if what Churchill is saying about white gay men and being implicated in foreign policy is true for white gay men, what happens if the same text is spoken and embodied by other sorts of people. What does it mean, for example, to be, as in the case of one our actresses who is Filipina, to recently receive citizenship and have to negotiate both the oath of loyalty to America and at the same time come from a colonized background? Two of our other actors are from Puerto Rico. So both ethnically and in terms of country of origin or the family’s country they have a different relationship to these issues. By bringing this to Brandeis, we’re doing things with this play that speak to the Brandeis community, especially recently with the important protests around racial inclusion and visibility on campus. So I think this is the right time to do this play at Brandeis.

What do you hope the Brandeis community will take from this play?

King: I think there’s two things. We want people to understand the complexities of U.S. citizenship, and in particular the complexities of a strong liberal ideal: that every group, no matter who we are, can become U.S. citizens. We want people to understand that this is an ideal that has never been fully achieved. Another reason, particularly given the recent hysteria around Muslim immigrants and the acts of terrorism that have been occurring around the world, is that we want people to think about the backstory of the way that CIA policies and U.S. state policies set up the conditions, for example, for the rise of ISIS. This is a political, historical fact that we want people to think about at this particular time. We also want people to think that even through the anxious, almost fanatic language of the play, we can get a sense that agency is possible. That different people can change that language.

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