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A Perfect Catalyst

Posted on April 24, 2017 in Uncategorized


A note from Forum Artistic Director Michael Dove on the decision to produce BUILDING THE WALL.


Over a year ago, as we were choosing our 2016/17 season, we could sense that the upcoming presidential election would be unlike any other. It was already a part of nearly every conversation in person, online, and in the media. We started to look for scripts that reflected the major themes and polarizing debates amongst the campaigns. Talk of a proposed Muslim ban led us to choose I Call My Brothers for our September show. The conversation about progress in women’s rights as a woman became the first major party candidate inspired the repertory production of What Every Girl Should Know and Dry Land. And then we decided to try an experiment and leave the final slot in our season undecided, allowing us to choose a play that would be responsive to what was happening in the world post-election and post-inauguration. What we didn’t anticipate was just how chaotic and unsure the nation would feel in 2017.


Choosing that final show was the most difficult programming decision I’ve ever faced. Reading script after script, it felt impossible to find the right story that would address the flood of information that we have had to absorb in these last few months. And then we were sent this new play by Robert Schenkkan called Building the Wall. In the tradition of 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale, here was a piece of speculative fiction that depicted a possible near future for the country under a Trump administration. It felt like the perfect catalyst for the difficult conversations we must face as citizens when it comes to how we secure our borders while retaining our national values and humanity. It’s a perfect fit for both our mission to spark conversation and for our season of responsive stories. It was a no-brainer.

Often, a new play will go through a development process of anywhere from 18 months to three years, but here was a playwright daring us to act with immediacy and stage the script as quickly as possible. Perhaps in these fast-moving political times, we’ll need to find new ways to create work on shorter schedules so that the plays are connected to the urgency of the present moment. As we’ve learned with our Forum (Re)Acts series of new works, the energy of a piece that directly addresses a topic still in the morning’s headlines is unlike anything else. And to create a space for our community to gather and talk about how we move forward towards a better tomorrow is absolutely a role we feel theatre can play.

We are thrilled to produce Building the Wall at Arena Stage from April 27th until May 7th, before its move back to Forum's home in Silver Spring May 18th through the 27th. To produce this work in the home of Zelda Fichandler’s beautiful regional theatre vision is a great blessing.

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