Executive and Artistic Director Keith Gerth and Associate Artistic Director Stephen Smith announce Oil Lamp Theater’s next show of the 2017 season, The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden, a contemporary comedy by Chicago native WC Turck. This presentation, directed by Keith Gerth, will be performed from March 9 through April 16, 2017 at 1723 Glenview Road in Glenview.
The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden is a thought-provoking satire that tackles important questions of freedom and privacy. As the play opens, a “press conference” is scheduled in Terminal F of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. Audiences are introduced to Edward Snowden (Nick Bryant) by his alluring Russian “minder,” Natasha (Lara Dohner). She tells us that Snowden, the infamous former CIA employee who revealed details about classified U.S. government surveillance programs in 2013, is making himself available for questions from the “press” – the audience in the theater – who are encouraged to submit questions for Snowden via social media using their smartphones. So begins an evening of immersive and interactive theater that takes audiences on a thought-provoking journey into the chilling world of global data-gathering and surveillance.
Snowden’s appearance at this press conference is monitored not only by Natasha – whom we learn is an agent of the Russian intelligence service – but also by Flenkins (JT Nagle), an American NSA operative. Flenkins takes frequent opportunities to remind Snowden that he is now an “enemy of America” guilty of treason. As the two trade pointed barbs and taunts, this sardonic comedy offers thought-provoking revelations about the security state and contemporary spy culture. Snowden, who acknowledges that his life “has become a bit complicated,” describes the circumstances that led him to do what he did, and encourages us to consider what his revelations might mean for both the democracy and the civil rights we take for granted.
Snowden outlines some of the frightening realities of the modern information state, making it clear that our understanding of information technology is being outpaced by the technology itself. He warns that we really don’t understand the risks associated with the technology that has slowly trickled into our lives in recent years. This “invasion” is best exemplified by the smartphone, a seemingly innocuous device that has become almost indispensable for most of us. During his “press conference,” Snowden points out that our government not only knows virtually everything about us, but that global surveillance has made our faith in the idea of personal privacy both misguided and dangerously naïve.
This thought-provoking black comedy raises many questions, among them: Is all this new information-gathering technology a blessing or a curse? Is our global security system a safeguard against terrorism or a threat to our civil rights and democracy? Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden takes no stand either way on these questions, leaving it to viewers to decide for themselves.
Rounding out the cast of this provocative satire are Katie Schwaber as a cynical airport gate agent and Rob Weinstein as an American traveler lost in the airport.