Stage & Candor


A Conversation with Rajesh Bose, Mohit Gautam, Caroline Hewitt, Jack Mikesell, Sammy Pignalosa, Babak Tafti, and Avery Whitted

starring in Against the Hillside

Written by Margarita Javier   
Photography by  Emma Pratte            
February 14, 2018


Sylvia Khoury’s Against the Hillside, currently playing through February 25 at Ensemble Studio Theater, tackles the controversial nature of drone warfare by following US drone pilots and the Pakistani families being targeted thousands of miles away. We sat down with seven of the cast members of the play: Rajesh Bose, Mohit Gautam, Caroline Hewitt, Jack Mikesell, Sammy Pignalosa, Babak Tafti, and Avery Whitted, to discuss the play, the role of theater in contributing to the national discourse, how to improve diversity in the arts, and the human cost of war.



Margarita Javier: First of all, could you each tell us a little about the character or characters you play in Against the Hillside?

Babak Tafti: I play Sayid, who lives in Waziristan. The village is currently being watched by drones from the US army, or Airforce for that matter.

Sammy Pignalosa: I play the 14-year-old Moussa, and he’s a confused, vengeful teenager who is trying to figure out how to hang with the best of them in these rough times.

Mohit Gautam: I play Ahmed, cousin to Sayid, son to Farid. I also live in Waziristan, and I do not like it.

Jack Mikesell: I play Matt, a drone pilot in Creech, Nevada doing surveillance on these people in Waziristan.

Rajesh Bose: I play Farid who is Ahmed’s father and Sayid’s uncle. I also play Abdul who is Sayid’s son.

Caroline Hewitt: I play Erin who is Matt’s wife, and who is pregnant. I also play Dr. Carter – I was going to try to do a British accent – who is British and is in the final scene examining Abdul’s ears.

Avery Whitted: I play Cameron Anthony, who’s a new drone pilot training with Matt Walker and who gets in a little deeper than he thought he would.

Margarita: The play is Against the Hillside, by Sylvia Khoury. What can you tell us about the play?

Babak: I think in the Waziristan part of it there’s a thematic conflict between survival and perpetuating the culture. Perpetuating home, perpetuating your customs, and how those two things can conflict, and whether you’re able to have both. That’s the big question. Do we stay? Do we go? Do we try to keep our village and our customs alive, or do we have to adapt to the current world?

Caroline: To me, the play is about disconnect, and the way that people want to be connected through art. Whether it’s couples or people who are having trouble communicating with each other, or trying to connect with someone who’s 3,000 or 7,000 miles away from them. And all the ways that not being able to connect to other people causes us to have a hard time connecting to ourselves.

Jack: For me, a big part of this play is the fact that there’s two worlds and both of these worlds are dealing with war in very different ways. For example, in Waziristan there’s a literal battleground going on. The trauma of war is there every day on a very physical level. Whereas war on Creech Nevada is all done on a psychological level, because these people are not physically at war; they are thousands and thousands of miles away, but engaged in war. The differences between being at ground zero of this war and also being connected and detached at the same time, and how that affects people in different ways. The latter end is the repercussions of those things and how years down the line, that war affects the ways we live.

Mohit: I think this play is about relationships, not just familiar relationships, but relationships to ourselves, what we want and how we react and live according to outside pressures. In this case, in Waziristan with the drone attacks and constant surveillance, how do we reconcile with that? How do we live our lives the way we want to live our lives yet know that we are being watched and we have pressure that’s building up? What is our breaking point? I think the same thing is true with the pilots who operate the drones. What are their pressures? What are their relationships with themselves and with their families? How does their work affect what is happening?

Avery: I think it’s also about the technology itself. I remember when the US government started using drones it was all about how precise they were, and how it would really mitigate the collateral damage that comes out of warfare; the pilots would be safe and bystanders would be safe and it was all about that. And as it’s gone on, and especially in this play, we have to ask what this technology does to people. What’s the human cost of this technology? What’s the human cost of technology in general? In the last scene, it’s also about how technology affects a person’s life.

Caroline: Yeah, and how you use technology to make your life better.

Rajesh: Years ago, I was having a conversation with a colleague about the drone bombings in Pakistan and lamenting how, to me, what was happening was grossly immoral. And this individual didn’t think of it with much consequence. He said, Well, they’re getting the bad guys; I don’t see the problem. And I said, They also kill innocent people, and he said, Well, it’s just a few. I was living in the West coast at the time, and I said, What if it there was a terrorist hiding in Van Nuys in the house next to yours and they used a drone bomb to get him and they missed and killed your family? Would it be ok with you then? And he was very defensive about that. These are people who are losing their lives. I think the play demonstrates that.

Against the Hillside

Margarita: And how have you been preparing for your role? Are you doing research, reading up on the history?

Babak: Billy had this fantastic book, Cheegha: The Call by Ghulam Qadir Khan Daur. It’s basically a wonderful account by a guy, I believe he’s from South Waziristan, who is a journalist and he goes back to his town and talks about it, he talks about the culture and his family, and they all become these wonderful characters you see, the traditions they have and the structures of their society, the patriarchal element of the town elder, and how things are worked out. There was also another wonderful study, I believe it was at the NYU Stanford Law site that Sylvia gave us, that was about the effects of the drone warfare: psychological effects, educational effects, economic effects–

Caroline: –but on the people who are being watched. Not on the people doing the watching.

Babak: Yeah, exactly.

Caroline: There are two branches of research. The results in Pakistan, and the collateral in Creech Nevada.

Babak: That was the eye-opener of the thing. The pressures of these people, specifically if you have a terrorist in your household, the Taliban specifically would pressure them. You’re gonna let me stay here. They had no choice and they end up being that collateral damage. And you couldn’t have more than five people together because the drones would think that was a meeting of some importance, and terrible things would happen. And then education dwindles severely because people were too afraid to send children to school. The literacy dropped. Endless amounts of destruction in that area.

Jack: Billy gave us some firsthand accounts of drone pilots. The aftermath of what it was like to leave at the end of the day and go back to real life. And the responsibility that you take on, and this idea of you take on an order and you do so regardless of consequences.

Caroline: I found it very hard to understand, physically, what being a drone pilot is like. So I saw an Ethan Hawke movie on Netflix that I thought was really helpful, called Good Kill. It really hit home for me just how claustrophobic and physically awkward it is doing what they do, but also how when the CIA is your client, you do not question that. You do exactly what they’re saying even if you have moral qualms with what’s going on, which I thought was really interesting because I think it’s important to remember that the people who are pressing the button are pressing the button, but it’s also coming down from somewhere else. In that way, there is damage done to them even though they’re accepting the mission.

Mohit: There’s also the actual physical changes we’re all going through. You know? Whether it be facial hair or cutting your hair or something like that. I mean, wearing a pregnancy belly. These things add a lot of who you are as you’re going through this journey as this character. It makes a world of difference. Cause you’re looking at yourself in the mirror and go whoa, that looks like a different person.

Margarita: Given the scope of these themes being explored, and how it’s not clear-cut by partisan issues–the drone programs have been instituted by both liberal and conservative administrations, it’s complex, it’s dirty–what conversations do you hope are sparked by audiences attending this play? What do you hope this play is going to add to that conversation?

Rajesh: I think that what struck me the most was that the consequences of any war, but the consequences of this particular kind of warfare aren’t just the immediate consequences of–obviously the horrific consequences of people being killed–but how it wipes out generations upon generations of people; its effects are far reaching across generations. I remember when I first read the play, it reminded me of an article talking about Vietnam, that children are still born with birth defects because of the Napalm, and this was how many years ago?

Margarita: Yeah and people are still reeling from effects from World War II.

Rajesh: Yeah, it’s still destroying people’s lives. What the US government has decided to do in South Asia is going to destroy people’s lives for generations to come.

Mohit: And going along with that, I think the main question I have for myself is what is our limit to the destruction? Right? Where do we stop? How far are we willing to go? Do we realize that if we’re willing to go to this point where ten, fifteen, twenty people die as collateral deaths, is that good? Is that bad? Is it 100 deaths? Is it 200? Is it the effects of mental issues with drone pilots? PTSD?

Margarita: Right, and as you said earlier, what is the limit? If there’s a terrorist living in US suburbia why don’t we bomb there, when it’s ok to do it in these other countries? What is that line?

Avery: I think there’s also a mentality amongst many Americans that Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and all those countries are just perpetually war zones anyway, so it almost doesn’t matter. I was born when my country was at war, and I’ve never not been at war. Especially for my generation, it’s really hard to imagine what those places would be like if there wasn’t a war going on. And I had an eye opening moment when I saw pictures of–remember when Aleppo was in the news, that it was destroyed? They would put up all these pictures of what it used to look like. All of these places used to look something like that. They didn’t just become war zones. That started, and hopefully someday it will end. But what I would want out of this play is for people to not just think of it as a really far off place made of rubble. That there are people there living lives.

Mohit: Exactly. This has nothing to do with drones, but the other day in Afghanistan there was a suicide bomber who killed 97 people in a market, and you open the New York Times and it’s on page 87 in the corner. It’s below the fold.

Avery: It’s kind of par for the course right now.

Mohit: It’s been almost 20 years now and our shock system is gone. We’re used to it now.

Caroline: I feel like for me the most I hope for in a play is that the audience will feel compassion for people who aren’t like them. One of the extraordinary things about this play is that one of the drone pilots does feel compassion for this family that he’s watching, and he does act on that. I think if people can leave feeling like they now care about something or someone that they weren’t aware of or didn’t care about before, then we will have succeeded.

Avery: Just for myself, I hate when plays have a super political explicit message, like Here’s the moral! Go out in the world and live like this. This play does not do that. I feel like it does a really good job of just showing you people.

Margarita: And on that line, what do you feel as actors is the role of arts, specifically theater? Speaking for myself, there’s something about theater, because you’re right in the room as the art is being performed, there’s a connectivity there, so what is the role of theater in contributing to a national discourse or themes that need to be addressed and aren’t often talked about?

Babak: We learn from stories, don’t we? That’s how cultures learn, from stories that are passed on. So in any capacity–theater, television, film, anything that’s telling a story–I think changes minds or at least opens a thought to explore a bit more. It’s always necessary. Everything we learn as a kid growing up, society, the impressions we get from television… it’s shaping how we see love, how we see hate, how we see all these things. So when you take a kid to this show or an adult comes to a show or whatever, it’s going to open them up to something they’re maybe not completely aware of, or that they didn’t know as much about.

Sammy: I think the thing about theater is how there are real people, it’s the human contact you get to see that humanizes things, personalizes things in a way that you don’t really get through looking at a painting. It’s so far out from your realm in the world. When it’s brought to you and shoved in your face by real people and you get emotions that you sympathize with, I think that can change your mind, just the sheer human contact and realization.

Caroline: I agree completely, and I feel like the thing about theater right now in a culture that’s so steeped in visual entertainment that you can control, is that you can’t control us. We are real people, and that’s a problem, right? There are real people in front of you that you have to deal with. Which I think is great, and there’s an urgency to it that doesn’t exist in a lot of other forms of entertainment right now. They can’t press pause. We are going to tell them this story, and they are going to have to come along with us.

Sammy: The depths of the human hearts, it’s cavernous: nobody knows how far and deep a meaning can go behind something like that. There isn’t that level of emotional, moral foundation under less personal things.

Rajesh: I think to that point, theater is more important than it maybe has been in a long time. I feel culturally at the moment we’re in a vast empathy gap–all of our consumption of stories is so curated to the point where we can just say, I don’t like this, I’m going to watch something else. But when confronted with something that makes you feel discomfort, to have to sit and really work through it is something that I don’t think as a culture we do anymore.

Avery: Yeah, you can’t escape to your phone.

Rajesh: Right.

Caroline: I mean, some will try, but you shouldn’t.

Margarita: And you spoke about empathy and how a play like this creates empathy. I haven’t seen it, but I can imagine that you get to spend intimate time with these families in a way that you wouldn’t in real life. It’s a private space, and you as an audience member have to witness that which creates a greater level of empathy you don’t get by just reading about it in the news. Like you said, it’s on page 87; I don’t know these faces, I don’t know these people, it makes it easier to distance yourself than when you’re confronted with these human beings. Even though they’re fictional, they’re human beings.

Caroline: There was an article that came out recently, I don’t remember where, about scientists who have studied audiences and realized that during plays their heartbeats start to sync up. In addition to what we’re talking about of there being real people, we’re not performing for one person and their experience. We’re performing for a community. That happens because they’re all sitting there together.

Avery: Yeah. Just from a performance standpoint, there are a lot of moments in this play where if you’re watching a movie, you’re watching the moments from an omniscient objective standpoint. When you’re sitting in a theater and there’s something happening, you’re all in the same moment. We’re all sitting in the same room together and we’re taking things off of them and they’re taking things off of us.

Margarita: Yeah, and unlike a movie, the audience contributes to the performance. In a movie, you’re all in it together, but they’re not getting anything from you, whereas when you’re in the theater, the actors are on stage.

Mohit: There’s no immediate transaction.

Against the Hillside

Margarita:Yeah. It’s the only art form I can think of that does that, that kind of communication between the spectator and the artist, which is why I love theater. And what has it been like working with the director William Carden?

Caroline: Great. Yeah, I think he’s a really generous director. He’s like the advocate for the script when we’re in the room with him, but also super open to listening to our thoughts and ideas are really good at layering things without demanding too much at any one moment.

Rajesh: I do remember him saying this is among the most challenging things he’s ever worked on. And it’s a beautiful script, but it requires enormous amount of exploration from everybody involved. Because the possibilities are endless. He always navigated that very artfully. Being able to find the time to explore everything that needs to be explored and still come up with what you need to at the end.

Margarita: I haven’t seen it, and I don’t want you to give too much away, but how are the two different spaces conveyed in these two different countries? Does it happen simultaneously on stage, or do you shift between the two?

Babak: I think it’s pretty simple shifting between trying to find a blend of the two. So then you can shift between both worlds easily and swiftly, which I think does a wonderful thing with how they’re connected. They’re connected through this drone. How they both affect each other. So, even the transitions, which I don’t think is going to give anything away, kind of bleed into each other. The two worlds just shift more and more.

Mohit: And if you think about it, in both Waziristan and Nevada the terrain is–as we have been talking about–quite similar: mountainous, desert, arid. I mean, when you see it, you’ll understand exactly–I don’t want to give it away–but there’s, there’s something on set that understand as to what is happening to create those parallels.

Avery: What was also interesting in rehearsal, just because of managing time with different people is we would hardly ever see each other. There was the Nevada group and there was the Waziristan group, and we were never in the same space at the same time. So when we finally came together, the first time we ran the show was really cool because it had been two or three weeks and we were seeing these scenes that were miles ahead of where they were when we did the table read. I think that also helped just make them feel like different worlds, but also the same.

Caroline: And then there’s the only time that two actors from those worlds interact is the final scene.

Babak: Do you think it’s a spoiler to say anything about the final scene? I’m worried about that.

Margarita: I don’t think so, that makes me really want to see it.

Rajesh: To watch the show and not know anything about it and have that happen, I would imagine is a pretty great surprise. I don’t think anybody’s expecting that at that moment.

Mohit: See, now you really want to see it!

Avery: There was also a choice that was made very early on where I remember when I was reading the script, I imagined that the scenes in Waziristan would be done in accents, kind of as a trope of like we understand that they are speaking a different language because they are speaking with that accent, but it was decided that everyone would have their own accents.

Margarita: Oh, I appreciate that so much!

Avery: Sometimes it works, but in this instance it was better not to.

Babak: It usually uses a distancing kind of thing, which is not what this is about.

Margarita: You have to trust that the audiences understand they’re speaking their own language, but the actors are using their voices. So I appreciate that and am happy to hear it. I always like to ask this because at Stage & Candor, we’re very much about fostering diversity in the arts. We live in a very forward thinking, very multicultural city, but it feels like there’s still a lot to be done in terms of representation: so what can be done? What do you think needs to be done to get to a point where we feel like every community is equally or authentically represented?

Sammy: I don’t think that’s something we can really tackle with just specific policy. I think that needs to happen over time because it’s much more societal, like the mind of society. There has to be a mental revolution in the population of the city and that’s not something that you can turn on. That takes time.

Babak: I will respectfully disagree, because right out of school this has been the immediate and constant question. I have dealt with shows that had been very heated with this very question. It’s all from the top, man. If you don’t have people in administrative roles, it just comes from around there and there have not been any changes like that at all since I’ve been out of school, if not longer. So it’s one of those things where it’s going to be a tricky navigation of: are we going to have this question? How are we going to actually have the people present that can actually do this change, be present in the room and bring this question out? Can we actually try to do things to where we give opportunities in the administrative offices, give opportunities in the directing and the whatever, putting whose play up, everything up there? It’s about opportunities and those opportunities aren’t going to be given unless the people who make those decisions see that. And generally, that hasn’t been the case. I think it’s something that needs to be talked about. This has been talked about. Nothing has changed for so long, and I don’t know, it’s one of those things, like, I don’t know. I mean, there have been wonderful people who’ve been talking about this, like Stephanie Ybarra at the Public Theater, wonderful sources of people who’ve been trying to push this change constantly. And I think that’s a big question. That’s been a bigger question these past two years, I think, specifically with our higher up political elements, right? Everything’s at a peak. It has to come from the top.

Mohit: I agree with that. Until our heads of the theaters in the country, heads of our production studios, heads of our arts centers or wherever reflect the community that they represent, that they are a part of, things won’t really change. As Babak was saying, it’s up to the hesitant to hire people to want to change themselves as well. Hire the people who reflect the stories that we want to tell, not the stories that will make the most money or the stories that will please their membership base or something like that.

Margarita: And also to stop thinking that there’s this certain thing that is what makes money. There are stories to be told and there are communities that are willing to spend money if it’s something that appeals to us.

Caroline: I think too, that many of the plays that we have in the Canon are portraying the people who were in power at that time, and I think that at this point what we need to do is we need to be doing plays of the people we wish to see in power. Otherwise, I don’t think that anything will change. And the fact is the writing is out there, the actors are out there. It’s just a matter of choosing to portray, not the White House as it is right now, but as we want to see it in 50 years. We have to be a little bit aspirational with programming, I think.

Sammy: I also think that when we do movies and TV shows and plays about a certain race or group of people, they’re about them, but they’re also about their situation. And I think that’s also taking away from the progress, because if we just had a regular play with that group of people and it didn’t have to be mentioned that this is their economic situation. They’re just a regular person. It doesn’t have to be stated that they’re black or they’re Latino. That doesn’t matter.

Avery: I had a conversation with a friend in the last play that I did where we were both saying that it’s so infuriating when people say things like It doesn’t matter what race someone is or that shouldn’t affect how they’re treated or their lives or anything, and to a certain extent that’s true. But if your race is not important to you, if that’s not part of who you are and if you don’t recognize that, then you’re missing something. That is a huge part of who everybody is. So I think it’s a mistake to try to put certain people in a certain place arbitrarily because they are a different race than is usually expected. A much better idea is to have stories that are about different people. Of course there are stories about Pakistani families. Of course there are stories about black families. Everyone needs to be represented but not represented in a clinical, statistical way.

Margarita: Yeah, especially because usually when people say that what they mean is that white is the standard. Because it has been. So when you say Oh, the race of this character doesn’t matter what you’re saying is the character is read as white and it doesn’t matter if it’s played by somebody else. But wouldn’t it be nice to have characters that are actually speaking to these communities?

Caroline: And more female characters.

Mohit: For me personally, there’s some value in saying Hey, we’re doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream with an all Asian-American cast. Right? And they’re not just saying Shakespeare’s words. They are implementing their own culture into the production. I am an Indian American. Indian American. I’m 50/50, I’m American and I’m Indian, and I hold both cultures in my heart dearly and I will bring both to the stage every single time. That is what we should value. We shouldn’t value saying, Oh no, look at that guy’s skin color. He’s white or he’s black or, or something like that. He can only understand one thing or she can only understand one thing. No, it’s not like that. You can tell the story that is so diverse. And it can be inspiring also, right? You can tell these stories if you just do it.

Rajesh: I think to that point of what Sammy was saying too, it’s sort of interrelated in the sense that who we are and where we come from as artists is not something to hide, it’s something to reveal. The idea is that who this person is and where they comes from is something to welcome, not to ignore in a statistical fashion, but rather there shouldn’t be, it’s not whitewashing exactly, but…

Babak: That white is the standard

Caroline: White male. White male.

Rajesh: And you can somehow pass. But that’s not the point. The point isn’t to pass, the point is to reveal everything.

Babak: Reveal what we see every day. That’s the thing, man. So many times where I’m seeing a play–like I saw Homecoming Queen at the Atlantic–it was so incredibly authentic to me. I had no idea of the culture or anything like, but it was a beautiful tale of being both from America and from a different culture, and you see how those two things clash and that’s the most immigrant American thing you can talk about. And seeing that, and seeing that story, more and more of them, because that’s more and more what I see in the streets around me. It’s amazing how much I actually thirst for that in the theater. I actually see more of that in TV and film than in the theater.

Margarita: Yeah, and in this city, which is so surprising.

Babak: It’s absolutely absurd. It just blows my mind because I think there’s a lot of good work being done in that front. Like we were talking about Stephanie Ybarra. I think Noor Theater, Lameece Issaq, Maha Chehlaoui, they are doing wonderful work, so things are being done. Things are pushing, but I think it’s one of those things you just have to keep going at it, because it’s not going to change on its own, that’s for sure.

Against the Hillside
Margarita: And what you said about behind the scenes is very important too. I spoke to Jacob Padrón recently and he mentioned that it’s not just putting people, diverse people, women and people of color on stage, but behind the scenes too. Who’s taking your tickets? Who are the ushers, who is the director, who’s a writer, who is the artistic director? Those things matter.

Caroline: And even where things are being advertised, like on NPR. I love NPR, but I love when I see posters shows in the subway because everyone sees them.

Margarita: Right, exactly. And you have to think of the audience. If you’re just putting women or people of color in a play to appease white liberal audiences, you’re not really changing the landscape and everything is going to remain the same.

Babak: I want to see younger people. I wish there was more of a push to appeal to younger audiences.

Avery: I think that a huge part of that is that theater is more often than not prohibitively expensive, but there are a lot of theaters that are trying to change that. I think the reason it is prohibitively expensive is because a large part of the people who go see the theater can afford to see it. And they’re going to see it because the stories that are up there mostly are about them. So it’s interesting. I think that that would change if there were more stories about more people.

Babak: Yeah, it needs to be done. And I mean, EST is wonderful in the sense that I see more youthful faces in the audience. I’m not trying to call out any theaters specifically, I’m just saying it’s nice that there are initiatives to reach out to that. There’s that common tale of theater is a dying art form, and when the older generation leaves, then what are we going to do? And that’s never been the case. Art constantly survives, but I would like to see kids come to a show that they can respond to. So first of all, they have to be interested in it because it has to speak to them. Right? That’s one side of it and the other side is to be able to have the ability to, monetarily. I don’t know, I might be unaware of certain things being done by certain theaters, so I might be completely ignorant, but I hope there is stuff out there to kind of make that the case more.

Margarita: I think there’s a lot of misguided efforts by a lot of big theater companies.

Caroline: But that’s where it starts, right?

Margarita: And having conversations like this.

Caroline: Just keep talking about it.

Jack: I imagine that work is out there that young people want to see, but it’s not being marketed, it’s not being accepted by larger theaters who can bring it to a bigger audience.

Margarita: Or the people who have money are not investing in it because they don’t believe in it. And we need to prove that, yes of course it can be both innovative and profitable. It can happen. It has happened.

Babak: Exactly. There are so many artists who want to put up a production of whatever it may be. And you go to a theater and it’s like all 500 bucks a day or something like that. Who has that kind of money to spend to do a full production, right? Let it be accessible to people. Let it be an open community thing, you know, an educational experience.

Against the Hillside

Margarita: Finally, why should people come see this play?

Jack: I think it’s important to witness other people’s experiences and they should come to see a perspective of someone else’s life.

Babak: There’s humor, it’s tense. There’s humor in the tension. You know what I mean?

Caroline: Also, I hear on the news that there was a drone strike and I didn’t actually know what that was. That’s my own ignorance, but I also think it was great to just get people aware of what we’re doing, the war crimes that our country is committing every day that Obama started, well, Bush started and Obama got really excited about. I love Obama, but…

Margarita: It’s easy to criticize when the President is somebody you don’t like, but when it’s somebody you like and they’re doing these evil things, it’s a lot harder to take.

Babak: You guys were talking about it before, the power of theater, right? That when you’re in the presence of the people, you can’t deny them. To be in the presence of the two sides of that coin, of the people who are implementing the battles, the wars and their effects on them and the doubts that come into their mind and what that does to them because they have to follow commands. Right? And the other side where you have to see people struggling to survive in their homes, just everyday life and having that confronted, death being present right there, right there in front of you. You don’t really get that a lot in theater, I don’t think.

Avery: And something I always love about theater is, it’s just cool. It looks cool. It sounds cool. The writing is really fast and it moves along and it’s just fucking cool.

Caroline: Plus, it’s only 90 minutes!

Jack: I look at my clock on my phone and I’m like Wow, it’s only 10:30 now?

Babak: I think it’s a great introduction to Sylvia. I expect great things for her are on the horizon. Seriously. I’m glad this her first production and that we all get to be a part of it.

Sammy: One of the reasons to see this play, like we said a little bit before, is that it calls into question the morality of humanity, because we have this technology and it’s honestly maybe a little too much for us to handle. We talked about how when you get an order from the CIA, you don’t question it, regardless any disagreements you may have with it. So it challenges you. What are some authoritative things in your life that you might not agree with? How do you act on that and how do you deal with that?

Caroline: Which we’re all doing every day with this current political climate.



With the constant buzz of American drones above the Pakistani countryside, a young woman fears for the safety and sanity of her family. Thousands of miles away, the drone pilot in Nevada tasked with watching her family becomes increasingly removed from his own life. Playwright Sylvia Khoury examines the cost of wars fought at distance on both the observer and the observed. Get your tickets here.

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