Magazine article American Theatre

In the Heart of America

Magazine article American Theatre

In the Heart of America

Article excerpt

Kasi Campbell, DIRECTOR: In the Heart of America shifts from realism to disorientating dreamscape, from a Kentucky motel room to the sands of the Iraqi conflict, and deep into the jungles of the Vietnam War. The characters include two young men fighting the Gulf War who fall in love; a Palestinian-American who searches for her missing enlisted brother; and the ghost of a woman massacred at My Lai, who chases the soul of the infamous Lt. Calley across eternity. The poetic nature of the writing inspires ravishing images, while the harrowing violence of the script demands a visceral battleground. Our design concept permitted fragments of one scene to exist simultaneously with the following scene, allowing both to resonate with layered meanings. In the fight scenes, the set's 10 tons of sand went airborne with frightening intensity. In the intimate scenes, painterly sound and visuals temporarily suspended the harsh realities of war. And when all five souls finally collided, the design team invoked a vision of Hiroshima's anguish--a cry that went right to the heart of our deepest fears.

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Dan Conway, SET DESIGN: This was a small-budget piece in a small theatre, but the play is a work of big ideas. It calls for a series of motel rooms situated in the middle of the desert--not just the Gulf War desert but in effect a Desert of the Soul. I made the back wall a projection screen, with a door cut in it for the characters to pass through--which enabled us to blend such images as the desert landscape, highways in rural America and the jungle foliage of Vietnam. …

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