Tomorrow at Guantanamo
The present is the past, and the future is the present. Emerging playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig applies this formula with grace and intelligence in her award-winning play about Guantanamo, Lidless, which received a European premiere at England's HighTide Festival and will have its U.S. professional debut July 9–Aug. 1 at the Contemporary American Theater Festival in West Virginia.
From New Haven, Conn., where it earned the $10,000 Yale Drama Series prize (with none other than David Hare serving as the judge), to California, where the Marin Theatre Company handed Cowhig the $2,500 David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize, Lidless has elicited praise for its blend of poetic imagery and solid storytelling. Hare, who had been covering the 2010 elections in England for the Guardian, took a night off from the campaign trail to catch its premiere, and came away saying, "It makes a far more lasting impact than anything offered from politicians."
CATF producing director Ed Herendeen, who will direct the play, says Cowhig is an "original and distinctive voice." The five-actor, single-act play takes place in Guantanamo in 2004 and in Minnesota 15 years later, as a former interrogator is reunited with one of the orange-jumpsuit-wearing prisoners on whom she used "enhanced" techniques she's forced herself to forget.
Set designer Robert Klingelhoefer has devised a chain-link world for the play in the festival's intimate house-in-the-round, and Herendeen hopes that designer Matthew Nielson's soundscape will take advantage of Cowhig's poetic juxtaposition of images of constriction and freedom: "The sound of locks and cage doors clanging, and the ever-present near white noise of the ocean at Guantanamo."