For each of us in this crazy business there is a special play—usually a play that we saw early in our careers, one that moved us deeply, that elicited a sigh and a heartfelt “That’s the kind of theater I want to do.”
For me it was a magnificent production of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, by Peter Nichols, with Jim Dale and Stockard Channing—an astonishing balancing act of tragedy and comedy, performed with a light step and a twinkle in the eye, and I was both devastated and thrilled. And when Daniel, Corrie, and I started Thalia’s Umbrella, our first production was Joe Egg.
So when Michael Longhurst, the incoming Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse in London, chose Europe—an obscure 25-year-old play—as his very first production at the Donmar a few years ago, I suspected that this was his “special” play, and I quickly ordered a copy. I found it to be passionate, audacious, and an astonishing balancing act of tragedy and comedy. I fell in love.
We are proud—and a bit surprised—to be producing the US Premiere of Europe (maybe even the North American premiere—Mr. Greig’s agent is unsure). But even though his later plays have premiered at prestigious theaters (the RSC) and all over the world (Intiman did a fine production of The Event a few years ago), it’s not too surprising that a play with this title by a then-unknown, 25-year-old Scottish playwright would go unnoticed in the US. But the political fiction of borders is not, of course, a simply European phenomenon. Nor the disruptions caused when our attitudes (sometimes romantic, sometimes mercenary, sometimes violent) change toward the people and places on the other side of one.
As I write this, Russia is—violently—removing its border with Ukraine.
The name of the town in Europe is never spoken; it has many, many names.
Katia Europe. Snipers on the rooftops, mortars in the suburbs and you said: “This is Europe…we must stay in Europe.” So we stayed, even after the food ran out: “This is Europe.” When the hospitals were left with nothing but alcohol and dirty bandages. I warned you and you still said: “This is Europe. Honesty will prevail, sense will win, this war is an aberration…a tear in the fabric. In time it’ll be sewn up again and things will look as good as new.”
Sava What are you saying?
Katia I’m saying I believed you.
—from Europe, by David Grieg