DENVER — Pulitzer winners Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel and Suzan-Lori Parks are among the contributors to Curious Theater Company’s “The War Anthology,” a multimedia drama premiering March 11.
Associate artistic director Bonnie Metzger, formerly of New York’s Public Theater, conceived the show in 2004 with company a.d. Chip Walton and board member Vogel.
“We were really interested in Curious finding a project for multiple artists to collaborate on,” Metzger says. “It’s something Curious hasn’t done before. We see this as the next step in our growth as a company.”
Metzger describes the production as an inclusive look at the history of America at war and what this has meant to its people.
“We’re trying to capture how that feels today,” she explains. “So, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War and the global conflicts that have created a tradition are important as a foundation, but for us, it’s trying to get at where we are now.”
Conceiving a methodology for the collaboration has been an artistic challenge.
“We started with the idea that the strength of the project was going to be in a diversity of voices, so we made lists of who might be interesting in combination,” Metzger says. “The nature of the project is that no two artists can write on the same conflict.”
Writers were brought onboard one at a time, with each selecting, as a starting point, a photograph from a different war involving the U.S. After each commitment to the project, Metzger looked for another writer whose style would contrast with what she already had. In some cases, she asked writers for something specific.
“For instance, because of certain things in her writing, we asked Elaine Romero to write about Hiroshima,” continues Metzger. “She’s a Latina writer from Arizona, and interestingly has a lot of military background in her family. Her grandfather was at Iwo Jima.”
Other contributors include Mildred Ruiz and Steven Sapp of Bronx, N.Y.-based spoken-word company Universes, Robert Louis Vaughn (“The Rest of the Night”) and local playwright Melissa Lucero McCarl (“Painted Bread”).
Each segment will be limited to 15 minutes. Workshops were held in New York and in Denver with the company, to begin shaping the pieces. In addition to the pictorial and dramatic themes, Metzger enlisted local experimental theater and multimedia talent Brian Freeland (a.d. of Denver’s the LIDA Project) to create a video component that will run throughout the production.
Writings also were solicited from veterans and active-duty servicemen and -women, as well as their families.
“For us to address onstage the principles of what it means to be an American, we have to welcome a cacophony of opposing viewpoints,” Metzger offers. “Part of this process of showing the chaos of these opposing definitions of who we are means embracing the viewpoints of military families. This not only includes veterans for peace and mothers against Iraq, but people who really believe in a solemn way about serving their country and who are currently serving.”