January 15, 2009
New writing theatre company, The Kamichi Plan, are dedicated to
sparking passion in current political, social and international
affairs. Their new play, When Do We Start Fighting? opens at The
Courtyard Theatre on 3 February where it continues until 1 March.
Cast member Amanda McLaren tells us a little about life, activism,
and the Weathermen.
Short but Sweet:
My theatre highlight of 2008 was … Now or Later at the Royal Court.
My New Year's resolution is … to build a chicken pen for my Dad and
buy him some chickens.
If I could change one thing about the world in 2009, it would be … to
close Guantanamo Bay.
If I could take on any one role in a great play it would be … Abigail
Williams in The Crucible.
If I were not an actress I would be …. a worker for the VSO.
The Bigger Picture:
Tell us about When Do We Start Fighting? and the themes that it explores
When Do We Start Fighting? Is about a group of militant students in
the 70s (the Weathermen) who aimed to violently overthrow the
American government in response to the Vietnam war. The argument
about the use of revolutionary violence when all other forms of
protest have failed is a big central theme, as well as the idea that
the Weathermen were fighting for justice in a way that we, perhaps,
are unwilling to in todays society; even if the way they went about
it wasn't particularly 'correct', the fact that they had the passion
to risk their lives to end what they saw as an 'injustice' is what
makes them inspirational.
Did you know much about the Weatherman organisation before you got
involved with the production?
I hadn't heard much about the Weathermen, but I had heard lots about
other organisations such as the 'Black Panther Party' (who were also
a militant group), the Yippies (Abbie Hoffman's fictional party), and
the Students For a Democratic Society. What first struck me about the
Weathermen was the fact that I hadn't heard about them. The
Weathermen were a group of middle-class white kids from comfortable
backgrounds who were responsible for bombing the Pentagon (twice) the
Capital and the N.Y.C police headquarters (amongst many others) as
well as spending nine years on the FBIs most wanted list. I think
that there is a certain amnesia in American history when it comes to
domestic bred violence.
Why do you think it is important for political plays such as this one
to be staged?
I think that global events post 9/11 haven't taken a too dissimilar
course, and that we as a generation are faced with similar moral and
political dilemmas as those in the 60s and 70s. However, I feel that
we as a generation have sat back and allowed it to happen. People can
seem more concerned with celebrity culture, reality TV and only what
directly affects them I know I can also be guilty of this! I think
that this play shows us how far a group of people, similar to my age,
will go to fight for what they believe in. The Weathermen were
branded as 'Terroists' and 'Un-American', and in some ways I agree
with their critics, but in lots of other ways I don't. I think that
the advantage of the play (and theatre in general) is that it lets an
audience decide. Were they a group of irresponsible, hypocritical
adolescents? Or where they a group of passionate individuals that we
should aspire to in this century? In addition to this Barack Obama
was recently been linked to the Weathermen during his presidential
campaign, which led to him being branded a 'Terrorist' by the opposition.
I think it is important for plays such as this to be staged because
they are entirely un-related to us, but have everything to do with
us. Brecht said that it is through looking at historical events that
we can look more objectively at our own situation; this, I believe,
is what is important.
Tell us about your character and how you have found preparing for the play
My character Rae is a fictional character very loosely based on one
of the leaders of the Weathermen, Bernadine Dorhn. Throughout the
play she is attempting to piece the organisation back together after
a disastrous street-battle that has forced them 'underground'.
However, her loyalty is compromised when she is forced to choose
between giving up her comrades, and death. As an actor, this role
required a lot of research into the period, the Weatherman, and the
general consciousness of people in America during the Vietnam war.
This has been essential to fully embracing the 'world' of the
Weathermen, for which Rae, through her confrontation with an FBI
mole, becomes almost a spokesperson.
Getting to grasp with the language of the play has also been
important, as the way they spoke was unique to the militant faction
of 60s counter-culture, and was influenced by people like the Black
Panther Party, who were a great inspiration to them… I think I say
the word 'man' about 100 times!
How did you get involved with The Kamichi Plan?
I met the artistic director and the other members of the company
through my course at Rose Bruford College, for which we spent a year
living in Texas together. I think that it was through our experiences
and frustrations during this time that we formed 'The Kamichi Plan'.