by Kelly L. Miller
Thematic issues of power and gender often infuse Rebeck’s dramatic work—and her newest play Zealot is no exception. This thrilling drama of diplomacy taps into the zeitgeist of political unrest and feminist activism in the Middle East following the Arab Spring.
Zealot unfolds in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest of Islamic cities, on the first day of the Hajj, the holiest of Islamic pilgrimages. Ann Haddad, the American undersecretary of state, has shown up with little notice, seeking the help of Edgar Featherstone, the temporary British consul in Mecca. There has been some disturbing chatter on the Internet—and she has come to represent America in the region.
When a peaceful, religious protest turns violent and threatens to become an international crisis, Ann and Edgar must wage a battle to reconcile their diplomatic duties with their own humanity—and decide whether to save a life that hangs in the balance.
In an interview in BOMB magazine, Rebeck talked about the innate power of theatre: “I’m not interested in small theater anymore….there’s a lot of struggle in [playwriting], so when I write, I want it to mean something, to have a larger effect… A lot of people say theater needs to be metaphoric or poetical—non-naturalistic—which I think is a mistake. You have to embrace the notion of theatricality, and there are many ways to do it, but for me theatrical means strong.”
Rebeck’s plays have been produced extensively in America and abroad. Her Broadway credits include Dead Accounts (2012); Seminar (2011); and Mauritius at the Biltmore Theatre (2007). Her other plays include The Scene, The Water’s Edge, Loose Knit, Spike Heels (Second Stage Theatre), The Understudy (Roundabout Theatre Company) and Poor Behavior (Center Theatre Group).
In 2012, Rebeck created NBC’s hit television show, “Smash”, which was nominated for multiple Primetime Emmy Awards. Her other television credits include “Third Watch”, “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” and “NYPD Blue” (for which she won a Peabody Award). Rebeck’s films include Harriet the Spy, Gossip and Seducing Charlie Barker. She has won numerous awards and in 2011, she was named one of the 150 Fearless Women in the World by Newsweek. SCR has commissioned her to write a forthcoming new play.
SCR Artistic Director Marc Masterson has been a champion of Rebeck’s work since his tenure at Actors Theatre of Louisville. In 2003, he produced the world premiere of Omnium Gatherum (co-written with Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros; Pulitzer Prize finalist, 2003) as a part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Masterson also premiered Rebeck’s The Scene (2006 Humana Festival) and produced Bad Dates during Actors Theatre’s 2005-06 season.
Masterson says: “Zealot will be the fifth play by Theresa that I have worked on. I admire her prolific dedication to craft, the wide range of styles that she has explored and the fierce intelligence that shines through everything that she does. Theresa is passionate, articulate, and committed to making great theatre.”
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