“We are trying not to preach to the choir, but to really examine what power does to people.”
The play follows Rumsfeld’s descent into madness and self-questioning, Perucci said.
The novella “Donald” was published in February and released simultaneously with Rumsfeld’s memoir “Known and Unknown.”
Eric Martin, who co-authored “Donald” with Stephen Elliott, said the release date was no coincidence.
“Obviously, we planned that,” Martin said.
Though unaware of Rumsfeld’s memoir when they began writing, he said they adjusted the book’s release date once they knew of the former Defense secretary’s memoir.
“We kind of set out on this strange journey — to take biographical information about Rumsfeld and super-collide it with the memoirs of the prisoners coming out of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib,” Martin said.
“The specifics have been stripped out, but a lot of the scenes in the play are taken directly from his biographies.”
If the title, release date and character names do not make the connection clear, the cover of the book is also a visible parody of Rumsfeld’s memoir.
But while the connections to Rumsfeld are obvious, discovering how to stage a performance composed largely of internal conflict was not.
Perucci said the set of the play is highly technical, and that the interrogation scenes proved difficult to translate to the stage.
“The challenge was to create an otherworldly experience,” he said.
“I wanted to create an environment where the audience is disoriented and taken to another kind of reality.”
Jay O’Berski, who plays Donald in the play, conceived a cell-like stage construction for his character. Video footage of Rummy — Donald’s ego — is projected on all sides of the cell throughout the performance.
“We didn’t know if it was possible to shoot all four projectors at the same time without it getting muddied, but it came out very clear,” O’Berski said.
Also clear, he said, was why college students should see the performance.
“(UNC) is training future leaders in all fields. Everybody who goes there is probably going to be somebody’s boss,” O’Berski said.
“It is necessary for those people to see a story about excess power and pride.”
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