Worlds collide, happily

When you work on a book or dissertation, there is always a moment when narcissism takes hold and you start to think that everything revolves around your chosen topic. For me, me it was migration; for another good friend, it was inheritance. I had one of those moments recently, with the combined force of both dissertation AND book! Colonialism and migration was the subject that prompted me to head to the Tricycle Theatre in the late 1990s to interview Nick Kent, Tricycle’s artistic director until this year, about several of the theater’s productions. The same interest prompted me to read the work of Tom Murphy and (later) Kwame Kwei-Armah, reading that led to a book chapter on “Patriarchy in Crisis” that focused on Murphy’s Coventry-set play of 1961, A Whistle in the Dark.  So fast forward a decade, and in the year of my return to my hometown of DC,  Tricycle brings The Great Game, its play cycle about Afghanistan, to the Shakespeare Theatre, Kwame Kwei-Armah is named Artistic Director of Baltimore’s Center Stage, and Tom Murphy’s plays (three, including Whistle) will be performed by Ireland’s Druid Theatre Company at the Kennedy Center (in October 2012).   It is marvelous and fitting that these works and these artists should find their way to Washington and Baltimore, and not only for my benefit, though I am glad.  Tricycle’s response to the most recent war in Afghanistan was to challenge established and emerging playwrights in the UK and US to explore its longer history in the region from diverse and often oblique perspectives. Murphy’s work deserves the kind of attention outside of Ireland that his contemporary Brian Friel has received.  Kwei-Armah’s move from rising star at London’s Royal Court and National Theatres to a city inextricably linked to the realism of programs like Homicide and The Wire makes sense in the context of his depictions of the social and racial tensions that run through London’s institutions. So, worlds are converging, if not colliding, and our theatrical culture is richer for it.