Fireside Play Reading, hosted by Annette Munt, is a popular activity that brings together the IAS community to read plays. The group meets at 7:00 p.m. one Tuesday evening each month in the Fuld Hall Common Room. Annette chooses the plays, often centering on a theme for the year. Everyone who gathers for the evening is given a part to read, and there is always a break to enjoy some wine, dessert and the company of colleagues. There is no fee and no reservation required for this activity.
Fireside Play Reading will be held on Tuesdays: October 16, November 20, December 18, January 15, February 12, March 12, April 9.
Plays being read this year:
October 16 - The Arrest of Ai Weiwei, by Howard Brenton (2013). On 3 April 2011, Ai Weiwei, one of China’s most prominent artists and outspoken critics of the communist regime, was taken from Beijing’s airport by security agents as he was about to board a flight to Hong Kong. Told that his travels could „damage state security“, he was detained for 81 days. Based on Ai Weiwei’s own account in Barnaby Martin’s book Hanging Man, the play depicts the artist's clash with Chinese authority over freedom of expression.
November 20 - Stuff Happens, by David Hare (2004),"Stuff happens . . . And it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." Such was Donald Rumsfeld's response on April 11, 2003, following the deeply contested US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and unhindered widespread looting in Baghdad under the gaze of US forces. The play, using direct quotes from interviews and public appearances, combined with a nuanced reimagining of what went on behind closed doors, chronicles the extraordinary manipulative process leading to the 2003 Iraq War that adversely affected the lives of millions of its citizens.
December 18 - Whose Life is it anyway?, by Brian Clark (1978). What is the value of a life and who should be able to make life-changing decisions in the case of a crisis? When sculptor Ken Harrison is permanently paralyzed by an accident, he resolves to die rather than live in his physically helpless state. Outwardly cheerful and often very funny, he fights for his dignity and the right to end his life in the face of medical opposition.
January 15 - The Laramie Project, by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Company (2000), is "a pioneering work of theatrical reportage” created from interviews, testimonies and news reports in the aftermath of the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard who was kidnapped, severely beaten, and left tied to a fence in the middle of the prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming. It brought international attention to hate crime legislation and to the lack of hate crime laws in various US states, including Wyoming. As a result, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law in 2009.
February 12 - Junk, by Ayad Akhtar (2017), is a fast-paced economic thriller that exposes the financial deal making behind the mergers and acquisitions boom of the 1980s - how debt overtook value as the path to enormous wealth while further increasing economic inequality and hardship for millions of American workers. It is a “brutal critique of unrestrained capitalism, the inability of the government to reign in it, and the public's lack of foresight and willpower to fight it”.
March 12 - Sweat, by Lynn Nottage (2015), is a topical reflection of the present outcome of America's economic decline. Set in 2008, and based on extensive research and interviews of residents in the industrial city of Reading, Pennsylvania, against a backdrop of job cuts, poverty, and downsizing, it shows what decades of concessions, deindustrialization and plant shutdowns have done to the living standards and social conditions of workers and their families, and, by extension, to life for the majority of workers in the US.
April 9 - The Exonerated, by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (2002). “What effect does it have on a person - a soul, a life - to have freedom and self-respect stripped away and then, ostensibly, returned after decades of incarceration?” This documentary play recounts the tales of wrongfully convicted death-row inmates, using their own words, from court transcripts, interviews and letters.