He was the guy in law school that carried a copy of the constitution in his back pack. Like many of us, or perhaps not enough of us, he believed that while things were not perfect, our nation had a strong core grasp on democracy and that the foundations put in motion by our forefathers were concrete enough to withstand attacks.
“I…believed our legal institutions were strong and fair not weak and blind. I feel the attack on democracy offended me to the core. I wanted to write something about it immediately that was not ripped from the headlines and shared the larger arc of threats to democracies in general and people of color in particular,” says playwright Wayne L. Firestone, one of the participants in this Summer’s Rogue Theater Festival.
Fallen Man, a new play by Wayne L. Firestone that opens at the festival this Sunday, July 25th, is both a parable and a reflection on dystopian current events, where the audience becomes eye witness and jury following the January 6th US Capitol riots. As the Blind Girl hears appeals—from the accused Fallen Man and the privileged Politician on either side of the scale, it is the truth that provides a clear vision, literally and figuratively.
Like many Americans, Mr. Firestone was deeply affected - and inspired to write - about the shocking events of January 6th, and its aftermath. As a playwright who’s earlier work centers around historical figures and events, this moment took hold of him.
“A common theme in my plays is the force of hope that can prevail in some of the darkest moments. I don’t like to be pollyannaish about the struggles we are facing— but often invoke magic realism and plays within plays to widen the lens on the conflicts,” he says. His recent plays are about historical figures who have been marginalized for different reasons— Else Lasker Schuler a Bohemian Berlin poet and playwright who was only really discovered and appreciated posthumously, and Dr. Lazar Zamenhof the founder of Esperanto— which appeared in the Rogue Festival in 2020 in the One Act Rise Esperanto.
So, can hope prevail? It’s a powerful question and one that for some takes on many shapes depending on perspective.
In interviewing Mr. Firestone, I pointed out that the politician in his play looked very familiar. His answer was a bit off-putting, but real and honest. “This character repeats throughout history. It can be male or female. Light skinned or dark skinned. American, European and other.” If you’ve known anything about the idea of a playbook or system in place that seems repetitive throughout history, then his answer is shockingly true. But like any true artist with a clear perspective, his approach also speaks for itself in that Firestone and his director approached the subject with a greater objective than to simply preach. He says, “The talented Director Marcus Gualberto and I had a long talk about the casting and felt we wanted to lift up BIPOC actors who could deliver a range of emotional and intellectual nuances to the roles and the rawness of this recent experience.” If you know anything about what has happened these past 18 months, you realize that this in itself is a statement!
The work, which recently played live at the Players Theatre Short Play Festival the first weekend they reopened, is Mr. Firestone’s continued message about something he feels strongly about, and wants to keep telling. “I want to keep the drum beat loud and if necessary uncomfortable. This has been a scary period for many marginalized people and I believe the theatre needs to respond more than symbolically. I predict citizen artistry from many disciplines will flourish in the coming period and I want to be a part of that evolving, creative discourse,” he says. With virtual opportunities, and wider, worldwide audiences now accessible with these growing technologies, maybe he sees all artists as having the opportunity to speak up.
“While we are still partially in our caves, Zoom has opened up more access to diverse playwrights, perspectives and instructors and I am really hungry to take advantage of the remote learning, festival and workshop offerings. I am reading both new experimental plays on NPX as well as plays that were considered experimental at the time (Genet, Brecht, etc.).I believe we are ready to break more rules with collaborative creative teams of writers, directors and actors who want to redefine the new normal. I was privileged to work with Marcus, Anita, Kris and Robert on Zoom and on stage and excited to do more together. Stay tuned,” he says.
Fallen Man features Anita Daswani (Blind Girl), Kris Paredes (Man), Robert Maisonett (Fallen Man). It is directed by Marcus Gualberto. The festival screening is on Sunday, July 25th at 2:30pm (https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/53797), and on demand for streaming from July 26th - August 2 (https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/54192).