Saturday, November 2, 2013

Edward Snowden's NSA's revelations topic of new Chicago play

Drawn right from today's headlines, "The People's Republic of Edward Snowden" will be presented at 8 p.m. Nov. 14 at Prop Thtr, 3502-04 N. Elston Ave, Chicago, and at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at The Berger Park Mansion, 6205 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago.

Tickets and information are available at 

"The People's Republic of Edward Snowden" is written by Chicago activist and playwright W.C. Turck, the co-host of the popular Chicago public access show, "Revolution and Beer,"

I had the chance to talk to Turck about the production.

Q - How are rehearsals going for "The People's Republic of Edward Snowden?" Is it coming together the way you envisioned? 

Our rehearsals are an interesting and dynamic mix of politics and theater, that sweet spot at the junction of art and activism where I prefer to be. The play is coming together better than I envisioned, thanks to Celia Forrest and Erik Parsons, my directors.  

We knew from the start this would be a challenging effort because of the complexity of the issue, and the daily revelations that emerge from Snowden’s, in my opinion, brave and very patriotic  actions. The directors and cast are incredibly dedicated and passionate about accuracy and keeping the play as up to the moment as possible. It’s a great team!

Q - In sitting down to write the play, what were your goals? What would you like people to take away from the play?

There is no difference between freedom and privacy. Think about it, they really are dependent upon one another.

There is a line from the play, spoken eloquently by our lead, Nick Haugland, in which he says that we are innocent until proven guilty. That is a right, not a challenge, to any power to snoop into our lives in hopes of discovering something. 

More than that, what is emerging is the way government is now collecting and mapping social contacts. That may sound benign, but think about it.

You know that old joke about we’re all just six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. I have never met Kevin Bacon.

If Kevin Bacon goes rogue tomorrow, a lot of us could be in serious trouble!

Q - What do you think about the latest revelation that the National Security Agency spied on 35 world leaders? Does that surprise you? How much spying do you think went on by previous administrations that we just didn't know about?

Previous administrations absolutely did spy on foreign leaders and for US corporations long before the Snowden revelations. There were accusations a decade ago of U.S. intelligence collecting data to give U.S. companies an advantage.

The difference is that in less than 20 years global digital technology and the abuse of it has evolved at a stunning pace, while our capacity to contain it as a society has not.

The danger here is not in the damage the Snowden leaks may do to our relations with friendly nations and allies, but in forgetting that Snowden did not break that trust, he only revealed a spectacular wrongdoing. 

That he is accused of wrongdoing in that effort reminds me of a mafia guy who once told me in the days after September 11 that the mob has nothing over the U.S. government. 

Q - Your last play, "Occupy My Heart, A Revolutionary Christmas Carol," ended up garnering national attentionDid the attention it gained surprise you? 

I have been blessed in my short-lived theatre career to work with some of Chicago’s best talent. Hannah Friedman did the impossible in only a few short weeks directing “Occupy My Heart.”

This time around I have Celia Forrest and Erik Parsons. On stage stand out talents like Zach Johnson-Dunlop, Arne Saupe, Teresa Veremendi, Donier Tyler and Catherine Povinelli, to name but a few, really were the driving forces behind both shows. 

Q - Your Chicago public access channel show, "Revolution and Beer," has helped open up discussion on various issues. I saw in one video that state police forced you off a public sidewalk in June at the site of a GMO labeling hearing. Do you think that you convinced police of your rights? 

It is the pressure of people standing up for their rights that defends those rights. The first line of the Constitution and the phrase “insure domestic tranquility” could be used to negate the Bill of Rights. 


The freedoms we enjoy, and those yet to be won are first and foremost the benefit of more than two centuries of activism, toil, tears and blood. In my last novel “The Last Man,” the protagonist, on trial for his life, asserts to the court that “…these rights are mine, for if a man gives me rights then he may take them away.”  

The key is in not convincing another of your rights but in being absolutely convinced they as much yours as the breath in your lungs.

Q - Tell me about what you saw at the Pine Ridge reservation in the 1970s. Did what you witness there having a lasting impression on you?

I was 13 at the time, stopping to see a school friend, Teddy WhiteEyes, who had moved back with his family before the so-called uprising. Even at that age I was never in doubt about respecting the human dignity and rights of others. 


Tensions were high, and we had to be escorted through the reservation by a car full of armed Lakota freedom fighters. I am pretty certain we were the only whites allowed, and with unquestioned hospitality. 

The conditions the Lakota and First Nation people lived under was heartbreaking and started my lifetime of activism towards positive progressive change for our nation and the world. 

Q - What are your hopes and concerns for this country? 

My concern is that we will lose hope, which is fundamental to any struggle. We are at a crossroads with regard to technology and its capacity to erode or erase our personal freedoms.

I hope to help make Edward Snowden a little something of a folk hero as my small effort in encouraging others to come forward for those false secrecies that assail our freedoms and imperil the health of our participatory government.

 My concern is that a co-opted media will subvert, divert or extinguish that critically important discourse

Q - You've worked on a variety of projects. Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

I would love to shake Edward Snowden’s hand and buy him a beer. Until then I look forward to getting back to writing, and have several novels and a 20 years research project on Roman history I would like to complete.

Theatre, however, is such a beautiful community, and I am finding I love the process of collaboration with gifted minds and artists in bringing an idea to the stage. Who knows, maybe Ted Cruz: the Musical…