ILNews

Play encourages talk about torture

Rebecca Berfanger
March 3, 2010
Keywords
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share


The Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis has never shied away from controversy.

So it comes as no surprise that the play, "Sunlight," which features the debate about torture of detainees, will be shining at the venue through March 20. Two performances will include discussions following the final curtain.

After the 8 p.m. performance March 5, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Public and Environmental Affairs faculty members Sheila Suess Kennedy and Jim White will be on hand. Kennedy was executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana from 1992 to 1998. White served on the Indiana State Police for more than 20 years and serves as director of emergency management for Indianapolis/Marion County.

The post-play discussion March 14 will be after the 2 p.m. performance and will feature history professor Peter DiMeglio. DiMeglio taught for 37 years at the University of Wisconsin, specializing in history of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and world civilization.

The play, written by Sharr White, is meant to encourage discussion about the legal aspects of the debate on torture and the rule of law following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, according to director Bryan Fonseca.

"The topic at the center of 'Sunlight' is the shift in definition and application of torture techniques," Fonseca wrote in the program's explanation of why he wanted The Phoenix to present it. "The drama, however, is the impact of the redefinition on our collective psyche. The undisputable cause for the shift was our response to the catastrophe of 9/11. We see the impact of all of this through the eyes of a single family. The beauty of Sharr's play is that the family represents us all. And I believe that we have been personally affected. The issue has divided us as families and as a nation."

Three of the four characters in the play are attorneys: Matthew, the zealous liberal president of a prestigious East Coast university; Vincent, the university president's son-in-law and conservative dean of the university's law school; and Charlotte, the president's daughter and Vincent's wife, herself a conservative lawyer in private practice. The fourth character is Matthew's longtime assistant Midge, who tends to side with her boss and provides comic relief from time to time.

The first scene opens the day after Matthew has allegedly ransacked Vincent's office in retaliation to the dean's work supporting torture, including a course called, "The Law of Terror." Due to the allegations following this incident, the university's board is holding a meeting to vote on whether he should be allowed to stay in his position.

Meanwhile, as Matthew's daughter and lawyer, Charlotte is handling calls from the local media and shredding seemingly irrelevant documents at Matthew's home.

Eventually Vincent and Matthew face each other in a passionate debate where Vincent explains why he is for torture, and Matthew takes a stand as to why he is adamantly opposed to it. Meanwhile, Charlotte, who has a very personal connection to Sept. 11, is torn between her loyalty to her father and to her husband, while coming to terms with her own views on the issue.

The play is especially relevant to Indiana's legal community, considering Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington professor Dawn Johnsen's nomination for the Office of Legal Counsel.

While the play doesn't expressly mention Johnsen, it does refer to the OLC's work regarding Johnsen's reports against the work of the OLC under President George W. Bush are part of why she's been a controversial nominee.

The Indianapolis theatre is the second venue to produce the play as part of its National New Play Network's Rolling World Premiere, following its first production at Marin Theatre Co. in Mill Valley, Calif.

The Phoenix Theatre is at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis. For ticket information and show times, visit the theatre's Web site, http://phoenixtheatre.org, or call (317) 635-7529.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

  3. Did someone not tell people who have access to the Chevy Volts that it has a gas engine and will run just like a normal car? The batteries give the Volt approximately a 40 mile range, but after that the gas engine will propel the vehicle either directly through the transmission like any other car, or gas engine recharges the batteries depending on the conditions.

  4. Catholic, Lutheran, even the Baptists nuzzling the wolf! http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-reveal-obama-hhs-paid-baptist-children-family-services-182129786-four-months-housing-illegal-alien-children/ YET where is the Progressivist outcry? Silent. I wonder why?

  5. Thank you, Honorable Ladies, and thank you, TIL, for this interesting interview. The most interesting question was the last one, which drew the least response. Could it be that NFP stamps are a threat to the very foundation of our common law American legal tradition, a throwback to the continental system that facilitated differing standards of justice? A throwback to Star Chamber’s protection of the landed gentry? If TIL ever again interviews this same panel, I would recommend inviting one known for voicing socio-legal dissent for the masses, maybe Welch, maybe Ogden, maybe our own John Smith? As demographics shift and our social cohesion precipitously drops, a consistent judicial core will become more and more important so that Justice and Equal Protection and Due Process are yet guiding stars. If those stars fall from our collective social horizon (and can they be seen even now through the haze of NFP opinions?) then what glue other than more NFP decisions and TRO’s and executive orders -- all backed by more and more lethally armed praetorians – will prop up our government institutions? And if and when we do arrive at such an end … will any then dare call that tyranny? Or will the cost of such dissent be too high to justify?

ADVERTISEMENT