NJ Peace Action

Peter Morris’s "Guardians" to be Presented by The Theater Project

Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts
10 Durand Road, Maplewood, NJ
Friday, February 7, 2014, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, February 8, 2014, at 2 p.m.

Two actors will perform and two professors will ponder ethical questions of war when The Theater Project presents readings of Peter Morris’s play Guardians on February 7 and 8, followed by a discussion.

One focus of Guardians is on events which closely parallel those at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where American soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners. The two character play examines the motives of a male journalist who fabricates evidence of military abuse and a female soldier involved in what seems to be the Abu Ghraib torture scandals, and will be followed by a discussion by Dr. Robert Pallitto of Seton Hall University and Madelyn Hoffman, executive director of New Jersey Peace Action and adjunct professor of political science.

Guardians premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it won the Fringe First Award and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award and has since been performed in London and New York.

Mark Spina, director of the readings and The Theater Project’s artistic director, views Guardians as one of many instances in which art (in this case theater) allows observers (in this case theatergoers) to “see the world through another’s eyes.” In this case, those others include the unreliable journalist, the accused soldier, and the playwright himself. The observers must choose whether to rely on any of their accounts, or simply to ignore all of their reports and absolve themselves of responsibility for the acts of their leaders.

Guardians presents many questions for the post-reading discussions, which may include whether and where there is a line between interrogation (“enhanced” or not) and torture, whether torture can ever be justified to prevent a catastrophic act of terror, whether military culture can foster legitimate battle aggressiveness without encouraging abusive aggression, and perhaps even whether military force is ever legitimate. It may also refer to whether there is less public concern about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than there was about the Vietnam war, and if so why.

Professor Pallitto recently published Torture and State Violence in the United States. His first book, State Secrets and Executive Power (co-authored with William Weaver) was featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Ms. Hoffman’s group, NJ Peace Action, founded in 1957 as New Jersey SANE, has fought for nuclear disarmament and prevention of war, and protested the use of drones and torture.

The Theater Project, an award-winning New Jersey theater company at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, is known for presenting outrageous comedy as well as drama with social commentary. The Theater Project believes in using drama as a springboard to community discussion and interaction. The company regularly presents staged readings of plays dealing with current affairs: Prop 8 (Marriage equality) Stuff Happens (the lead-up to the Iraq war) and Tiger Lilies Out of Season (breast cancer treatment alternatives).

Spina, the director of these readings, was awarded a 2012 best director award by the Star-Ledger. Each script-in-hand performance will be followed by a discussion with the audience and the guest panel, February 7 at 8 p.m., and February 8 at 2 p.m. at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, 10 Durand Road, Maplewood, NJ. Tickets ($20) may be reserved by calling (973) 763-4029 or purchased through The Theater Project website, www.thetheaterproject.org.

Peter Morris's The Guardians