In a city known for its musicals, Karen Malpede has carved out a space for a different genre of New York theater. Each of her seventeen plays is an exploration of political issues, often using allegory and surrealism to explore the very real current events of today. Karen is the resident playwright at Theater Three Collaborative, where her most recent production, Extreme Whether, was hailed as “brave and pioneering” in the New York Times for showcasing the clash of wills in understanding climate change. But arguably her most daring endeavor is penning Another Life, the first American play to directly respond to the US torture program.
Another Life stands out not only for being the first in its genre to recount actual events conducted as part of US interrogation, but also for dismantling American conceptions of torture through its characters.
Beginning on September 11th, 2001, Another Life is the story of a mogul, Handel, who builds a private contracting company and sends his daughter Lucia to become a physician at the Bagram Air Force Base torture site. While Handel imprisons his wife Tess along with an Egyptian cab driver Abdul, Lucia discovers a black site prison at Abu Ghraib and becomes a whistleblower. The use of surrealism in Another Life becomes harrowing, as it harkens to the public’s willful ignorance of American activities abroad and reveals our own lustful desire to name an enemy.
I got to sit down with Karen in her Brooklyn home one afternoon in April, where she described the sentiments of New Yorkers immediately after September 11th and the incongruous actions of the government. In this podcast, you’ll hear her share the stories of some of the real victims of the torture program. You’ll also hear excerpts from a performance of Another Life, starring George Bartenieff as Handel, Christen Clifford as Tess, Abbas Noori Abbood as Abdul, Di Zhu as Lucia, Alex Tavis as David Abbas, and Abraham Makany as Geoff.
Mary von Aue is Associate Editor for Warscapes. She is a freelance writer based in New York. She holds an MA from Columbia University, where she studied classical Islamic literature and the effects of the water crisis in Palestine, a topic she investigated while working in Deheishe Refugee Camp. Mary has lived in 6 countries and writes about history, policy, and culture. Twitter @von_owie