When did you first come up with the idea for “Embedded”?
During the war, I was reading different news sources. I would check everything. It’s the way to get a balance. And I was reading a different account of the war in the U.K. papers and that was for me, curious. I started making notes. I started by writing the scenes with the Office of Special Plans folks—the neo-conservatives—just as an exercise. I wondered what skewed logic was it to use deception and lies to get the American public’s support for the war?
You’re talking about President Bush’s advisors like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.
Yeah, I did some research on them and I found out about some of the philosophy they adhere to—a kind of elitist philosophy that there are different truths for different people. The idea of the noble lie—that concept exists in the philosophies of some of these people. So I just started writing these characters and that’s kind of where the play started. Then I thought, this is fun to write but there is another story here, and that’s the soldiers who are serving the country.
The war planners are shown in masks and suits, plotting the war from what appears to be an office.
For me, this war is hard to stomach mainly because the people, the policy makers that have put these men and women in danger, all had the opportunity when they were young men to serve in Vietnam. Most of them chose not to, [they] sought deferments or avoided service altogether. Not only did they not serve but their children don’t have to, and yet they see no problem with this kind of policy of pre-emptive war.
You make them sound a little heartless.
I wanted to try to understand what motivates this kind of policy. There is what I feel is a misguided benevolence. I do believe they [Bush’s advisors] think they are doing a good thing for the world. It’s just curious to me that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to get it. Even our long time allies are not looking at us with a mixture of suspicion and fear.
Why did you call the play “Embedded”?
I just like the word. It’s a great word.
From the depiction of the media coverage in the play, it doesn’t seem like you were a real fan of the embedded journalist program.
Actually, there was some really good reporting from embedded journalists. There are two sympathetic types in the play, two cheerleader types and one in the middle. There’s one embedded reporter who is a model for how one can ‘get things through.’ As she says, ‘You just have to be clever.’
What message are you hoping to get across to the audience?
I hope that people leave the theater in some kind of discussion. That would be my ideal. Whether they agree or not, I don’t care. I hope they address some of the questions raised in the play.
Have you gotten any backlash from supporters of the war?
There have been a couple people who’ve been pissed off. Listen, it’s a satire. And you can’t be polite in a satire. It’s also not a documentary, so people can take what they want to out of it. Just come on down and see it and have an open mind. I’d like people to see it and judge for themselves what the play is about.