The Real 9/11 Trials:
Interview with Sander Hicks Regarding his new play Bronze Star, on the life and death of Dr. David Graham, a slain American whistle-blower.
Sander, New York hasn’t seen you write
a new play in about ten years. Why now? What's up?
Well, I am inspired by the courage and the self-sacrifice of this guy Dr. David Graham. I never met him, but I feel really close to him. Like me, he spent some time trying to put together the puzzle of the 9/11 event. He met two of the so-called "9/11 Terrorists" ten months before 9/11. He tried to do the right thing, and he met with the FBI several times, before 9/11. But then, he died. And not enough people have asked “why?” I have been to his hometown, down in Louisiana, several times. Graham was beloved in his community, he was a great guy. But the newspaper in Shreveport didn't write the obvious: it was weird that Graham died right as his new book on his 9/11 terrorist experience was about to come out. His life is one hell of a drama. There are immense political and social and spiritual forces clashing around this man’s life.
But 9/11? That’s past. Come on, it happened almost 11 years ago.
Look how the "9/11 Trials" are finally under way just now as I write this, down there in the hell of Guantanamo. US Military tribunals, and not due process, for people we have already tortured. From the President's comments, you would think those Arab suspects have already been found guilty. But just the opposite. We never yet proved these people did 9/11. If you think we did, stop and ask yourself why you think that, and what scientific evidence is it based on?
These trials are happening now, after 11 years of delay and drama. And our play is going up this week as well, after a couple years of working on it. It's a wonderful coincidence. You be the judge - which presentation is more truthful? By telling this story, of the personal journey of one man working alone, this play asks the hard questions about 9/11: how did it happen? Was it allowed to happen, or made to happen? Was it really "Arab terrorists?" Why were there so many strange connections between the "19 terrorists" and the CIA and US Military? Specifically, why did Dr. Graham see them have such access to Barksdale Air Force Base?
The play asks, or touches on, a larger spiritual, or philosophical question. How are our beliefs created, in this age in which the truth itself seems trampled by brutal forces? Why do we believe something, just because the government and media say it’s so? Why cling to a thing that never has never been proven true? Maybe we are under the influence of fear, and not reason? If so, we are not free.
How did 9/11 affect your career as a playwright and publisher?
Wow, it was a double whammy! I was running Soft Skull Press when the Bush biographer Jim Hatfield suddenly showed up dead in a motel room in Arkansas, in July of 2001, two months before 9/11. So, I was shattered by this, like my bones were all shattered at once. I had so much riding on Jim Hatfield, and his Bush book, all my chips were on him. Around that same time, I had won a generous commission from Playwright's Horizons, to do a new play. I thought that I should take some time off from Soft Skull Press, to write that play, (and to investigate Jim's suicide, and do some other things.) The play I wrote for the commission, Sarcoxie and Sealove, was about the anti-corporate globalization movement, told through the lives of a brother and sister who are the children of an IMF economist. It ended in a revolutionary situation, the people rise up, kind of like Occupy. But the good people at Playwright's Horizons felt that the tone of the country was not open to revolutionary situations. It was right after 9/11. The 9/11 event had sort of re-written what was allowable to say, but no one was willing to phrase it in exactly those terms. It's different in NYC, and the USA now. Now, we have the people rising up. People are occupying public space, and that movement right now is trying to figure out the most effective way forward. The time is right for this play.
How is it working with Yana Landowne and the cast?
Yana is so very smart, and also very tough. She’s like my Mom! She cares a lot about taking care of the actors. We have been doing all this on a tight budget, and I’m really grateful. Love her a lot.
The cast is super-talented and committed to the project. No prima donnas, these guys have been around. Most of them I knew already, like Jeffery Emerson who did my play The Breaking Light with me in NYC and LA, back in the 90’s. Bronze Star inspired him to come out of retirement! He is a young, good-looking guy and he plays FBI agent Steve Hegel. Elliot Crown and Lenny Vretholm I know from 9/11 Truth circles. Len is our lead, masterfully playing Dr. Nick Grand, the character based on Dr. David Graham. Elliot is the bad guy, M.J. Khan, who is based on the real-life terrorist “handler” of the same name. The way Elliot is doing it he’s dressing up the part with plenty of color, like a nemesis from a James Bond film, thick accent and everything. Elliot also doubles as Phil Zelikow, in a scene in which a whole different kind of acting is required, the mild-mannered DC bureaucrat, the real “bad guy”, underneath the calm veneer.
Where will the play go up?
We are in a very special space--a cathedral-sized old Lutheran church, at 626 Bushwick Ave, in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
It's a wonderful community of artists and musicians who work in studios in the old school next door, adjacent to this enormous church space, where the pulpit and stained glass are still intact. I built a large stage there, as a part of our deal to do the play. Being in the space so much, I feel all the prayers, the weddings, the funerals, and the newborn baptisms that have been done there over the last hundred years. A new kind of fellowship is coming in now, in the form of art and theatre. A theatre that embraces the political realities of our day, but a theatre that also stays in rhythm with the quest for truth, the spiritual journey that people like Jesus and Buddha invite us to go on. David Graham also invites us to go on this journey. This story, after all is his journey into a valley of darkness. He didn't survive, but in a way, this play keeps his light burning.
MORE INFO on BRONZE STAR:
The New Play by Sander Hicks
A staged reading workshop, based on the life and death of Dr David Graham.
Wed, Thurs, Fri
May 9, 10 and 11.
Old St. Marks Cathedral Space
7:30 pm, and live music after!
Graham met two of the "9/11 Terrorists" ten months before 9/11. He warned the FBI but was confounded by their inaction and hostility. He died on the eve of publishing his book.
Sliding scale tix. $10-$20 Suggested. RSVP here.
Free Admission with on site purchase of Sander Hicks's new book Slingshot to the Juggernaut.